Friday 23 March 2018

France foils Charlie Hebdo-style terror plot to behead military chief

Journalists at the scene of the intended attack
Journalists at the scene of the intended attack

Henry Samuel in Paris

France has foiled a plot to kidnap and behead a senior military official and post the act on the internet, as the country remains on heightened alert after a number of terror attacks.

The three suspects had planned to time the murder for next January to coincide with the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo killings in which Islamist gunmen killed 12 at the magazine.

They had intended to target a military base film their act camera and post it online.

The plot bears similarities with the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, the British soldier hacked to death in London in May 2013.

One of the suspects, a former sailor, had previously worked at the base, but was dismissed due to behavioural problems. He had planned to behead his former superior.

On Monday, police had seized four individuals aged between 16 and 23 from four locations in the north, Yvelines near Paris, south-western Rhone and the Bouches du Rhone near Marseille. The youngest was freed without charges yesterday morning.

Those still held had been planning "a terrorist act" against Fort Bear national commando training centre at Port-Vendres, in the Pyrenees, and were in custody of the country's intelligence services, said Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister.

He said the group's leader, a 17-year-old, had been under surveillance after his activism on social media raised suspicions. His mother had also warned authorities about his desire to travel to Syria.

In late June, a man with suspected ties to Islamist extremists beheaded his boss at a transport company and hung the head on a factory gate.

"We note the power of the threat, a threat level (France) has never before known," said Prime Minister Manuel Valls. "The threat is outside, the threat is inside."

Thousands of French police and soldiers have been combing streets and guarding sensitive sites - houses of worship to tourist landmarks - since January attacks by three Islamist extremists on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher grocery that killed 20.

Irish Independent

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