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Lyon blast suspect appears before anti-terror judge

Emmanuel Foudrot, Reuters | Forensic officers inspect the site of a suspected bomb attack in central Lyon, France May 24, 2019.

The suspect in last week’s Lyon parcel bombing attack, which wounded 13 people, was handed preliminary charges during an appearance before an anti-terrorist judge Friday.

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The main suspect in the Lyon parcel bombing attack, identified as Mohamed Hichem M., was handed preliminary charges of attempted murder, criminal terrorist conspiracy and manufacturing, possessing and carrying an explosive device in relation with a terrorist undertaking.

The 24-year-old Algerian IT student was arrested May 27 and admitted making the parcel bomb and deposited the device in front of a Lyon bakery in the city centre, said Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz in a statement.

The suspect arrived in France on a tourist visa in August 2017 and was unknown to the police before the attack.

Last week, Heitz described video surveillance that showed a man heading toward Lyon city centre on a bike. He was seen arriving on foot, pushing his bike along a pedestrian-only street, then leaving a paper bag on a concrete block in the middle of the street. The suspect immediately returned to his bike and left the same way. A minute later, the explosion shattered the glass of a refrigerator in the bakery.

The suspect initially denied his involvement, then admitted "pledging allegiance to the IS [Islamic State group] deep down inside and dropping off the explosive device he had prepared beforehand," Heitz said.

Data analysis of a computer used by the suspect until the end of last year also helped investigators establish he had an interest for "jihadi thesis and IS's activities."

The police probe also established that the suspect had ordered online a pack of 20 batteries corresponding to those that served to remotely trigger the device. Some traces found on evidence discovered at the scene also matched the suspect's genetic profile, Heitz said.

The suspect was arrested along with his parents and brother, but they were released on Thursday without charges.

Victims hit with shrapnel

Sources close to the investigation suspected the explosive was acetone peroxide, or APEX, a volatile compound used in deadly Paris attacks that happened on November 13, 2015.

Investigators recovered small screws, ball bearings and batteries along with a printed circuit and a remote-controlled trigger device. Officials later said the charge was relatively weak.

Thirteen people were wounded in the blast -- eight women, four men and a 10-year-old girl -- of whom 11 needed hospital treatment.

France has been on high alert following a wave of deadly jihadist terror attacks since 2015 which have killed more than 250 people.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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