France foils 'terror' attack on military

2015-07-16 13:11


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - France has foiled a "terrorist" plot to capture and decapitate a member of its armed forces at a military base, officials said.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said security forces staged dawn raids on Monday and arrested four people, aged between 16 and 23, who were "planning to commit a terrorist act" at a French military installation.

The youngest was quickly released but the other three are suspected of planning to kidnap and behead a member of the military, possibly on December 31 when the facility was thinly staffed.

The oldest of the group served as a navy signalman at the base around the southern town of Collioure, which is also used for training by elite commando forces.

He was identified as Djebril and was recently kicked out of the navy, said a source close to the investigation who did not wish to be named.

No weapons found

The other key plotter was just 17, and was already being closely watched by authorities due to his activities on social media and connections to French jihadists in prison.

All three of those still under arrest had been planning to travel to jihadist-controlled areas of Syria, the security source said, but the 17-year-old's mother contacted authorities and he was interviewed by counter-terrorism officials.

No weapons were found during the arrests, the source said, although officials discovered documents on preparing explosives.

The news of the arrests followed a statement from President Francois Hollande, who said attacks had been thwarted in recent days.

"This week, we stopped terrorist attacks which could have taken place," Hollande said on a visit to the southern city of Marseille.

France remains on high alert more than six months after jihadist attacks in January that claimed 17 lives and started with shootings at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

At traditional July 14 celebrations, Hollande said: "Every week, we are arresting, preventing ... terrorist acts."

The suspected plotters are now in the custody of France's intelligence services, the DGSI, and anti-terrorist prosecutors in Paris have opened a probe, Cazeneuve said.

"I want to congratulate our security services for this new blow to the terrorists and for again foiling an attack," said the minister.

Jihadist 'hotline'

News of the foiled attack came just hours after two blasts on Tuesday at a petrochemical plant near Marseille, described by Cazeneuve as a "criminal act".

Investigators had yet to pin down a motive for the explosions and there was currently "no link" with the foiled attack on the military base, he added.

The government says there are 1 850 French citizens or people living in France who are "implicated" in jihadist networks, with around 500 in Syria or Iraq.

France, which is home to Europe's largest Muslim population, has beefed up security, posting 30 000 police officers and soldiers outside 5 000 sites deemed "sensitive" such as schools and places of worship.

Authorities have also set up a hotline for friends or family concerned that someone could be tempted to wage jihad - an effort that has yielded 2 500 leads.

Following controversial "anti-terror" laws passed last year, France is also preventing suspected jihadists from leaving the country - some 118 travel bans have been enforced since the legislation was passed in November.

Maximum vigilance

Cazeneuve said 29 people had been prevented from entering the country in that time.

A further 40 "preachers of hate, including pseudo-, self-proclaimed imams" had been kicked out of France.

Paris has also tightened security around sensitive sites such as factories, calling for "maximum vigilance".

Last month, a man with a suspected link to the Islamic State group spiked his boss's severed head onto the fence of a US-owned gas factory in eastern France.

But experts have warned it is extremely difficult to defend against attacks on such sensitive sites.

"There is no such thing as zero risk," said Philippe Prudhon, a technical expert at the UIC union of chemical industries.

"If someone really wants to cause harm, it will be difficult to stop him or her. We have to realise that we have been in a fundamentally different environment for the past three years," Prudhon said.

Read more on:    francois hollande  |  france  |  security

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.