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TERRORISM

Suspected terrorists were ‘ready to take action’

Two men arrested in France this week on suspicion of wanting to carry out terrorist acts had bought explosives and were “ready to take action”, police sources revealed on Friday.

Suspected terrorists were 'ready to take action'
Police search the house in Marignane where two young men were arrested on suspicion of terrorism on Thursday. Photo Gerard Julien/AFP

A 20-year-old and 18-year-old were arrested by anti-terrorist police in the town of Marignane, near Marseille, in the Bouches-du-Rhone region on Thursday .

The pair were “ready for action” and bought matierials to make explosives”, sources close to the investigation told French daily Libération.

The arrests of two “suspected terrorists” comes one year after self-proclaimed Al-Qaeda inspired gunman Mohammed Merah killed seven people, including three Jewish children in Toulouse and Montauban.

In December last year, Interior Minister Manuel Valls warned that there may be “dozens of other potential Merahs” in France.

“We face an enemy within France, as a result of radicalization,” Valls said in the past.

The two suspects came to police attention when they sent a “threatening email” to US President Barack Obama in November last year.

On their Facebook pages the pair had described themselves as "Jihadists" and had posted around 20 extremist videos on their accounts.

Since then, they had expressed their desire to buy weapons as well as explosives in order “to take action”, police sources told Libération. It was at that point that police took the decision to arrest the men.

“They were potentially very dangerous and we could not afford to take any risks,” the source said.

After the arrest, Interior Minister Valls commended the investigators.

“I pay tribute to the actions of the police and intelligence services, who over the last few months, helped neutralize these particularly dangerous individuals. The threat from terrorism, however, remains high throughout the country.”

France has boosted national security in the light of its operation against Islamic extremists in the north of Mali. Several foreign extremist groups have since made threats to strike France on home soil.

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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