Terror attack plot foiled in France after arrests

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The suspects – of French, Moroccan and Afghan origin and aged between 29 and 37 years old – were detained in the southern port city of Marseille and the eastern city of Strasbourg overnight on Saturday and Sunday.

Bernard Cazeneuve told a televised news conference on Monday the arrests prevented “a terrorist act that had been envisaged for a long time on our soil”.

The interior minister said six of the suspects were not known to the intelligence services. One was a Moroccan national flagged by a foreign government.

French Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve
Image Caption:French Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed the arrests in a televised address

He did not reveal the intended target of the plot, but did say “the foiled attack was a co-ordinated attack aiming to target several sites simultaneously”.

The weekend raids followed an eight-month investigation by security services.

“Credible information made these arrests necessary,” an unnamed security source told the AFP news agency.

Mr Cazeneuve linked the raids to a series of arrests in June by French police shortly before the start of the Euro 2016 football championship hosted by France in the summer.

“The scale of the terrorist threat is enormous and it is not possible to ensure zero risk despite everything we are doing,” he added.

Tourists visit the traditional Christkindelsmaerik (Christ Child market) near Strasbourg's Cathedral
Image Caption:Strasbourg’s Christmas market is due to open this week

The announcement comes five days before the opening of the famed Christmas market in Strasbourg – which was the target of a failed extremist plot in 2000.

The city has been on high alert ahead of the opening, with local officials warning it could be postponed or cancelled in the event of serious threats.

However, the mayor of Strasbourg said it appeared the plot had focused on “the Paris region”.

A total of 418 people have been arrested in France for suspected links to terror networks since the start of the year, including 43 people this month alone.

The country remains in a state of emergency a year after co-ordinated attacks by Islamic State jihadists in Paris killed 130 people.

The raids in Strasbourg reportedly took place in the Neuhof and Meinau neighbourhoods, where authorities dismantled a Jihadi network in 2014 including the brother of an IS bomber who attacked the Bataclan concert hall in the French capital last November.

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