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TERRORISM

‘Five terror plots’ foiled in France since January

French PM Manuel Valls revealed on Thursday that five terror plots against the country have been foiled since the Paris attacks, as police continue their desperate hunt for any accomplices of the student terror suspect who planned to attack churches.

'Five terror plots' foiled in France since January
French PM Manuel Valls talks to President Fran├žois Hollande and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. Photo: AFP

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls revealed on Thursday that five terror attacks had been "foiled" in France in recent months.

He told radio station France Inter that "numerous attacks had already been foiled — five if you take into account the attack which happily did not take place at Villejuif" on the outskirts of Paris.

A 24-year-old Franco-Algerian IT student is being held by police investigating an alleged plot to attack a church near the French capital.

His plans were exposed after he accidentally shot himself and police uncovered a stash of weapons and detailed plans to attack the church.

Police said his DNA was also linked to the murder of a young mother in Villejuif who was found shot dead in the passenger seat of her car on Sunday.

Reports on Thursday suggest police are desperately looking for at least two accomplices linked to the student, including one who provided him a car loaded with weapons.

Prosecutors also believe Ghlam was in contact with a man in Syria, who they believe ordered the student to attack churches.

The revelations over the planned attack come less than four months after a jihadist killing spree in Paris left 17 people dead, leaving France on high alert.

"The threat has never been as high. We have never had to face this kind of terrorism in our history," Valls told France Inter.

Hundreds of French nationals have joined jihadist ranks in Iraq and Syria, accounting for almost half the European fighters there, according to a report released this month by the upper house Senate.

Valls said 1,573 French citizens or residents had been implicated in "terror networks", 442 of which were currently believed to be in Syria and 97 of whom had died there.

"I want to remind you that seven French citizens have died while carrying out suicide attacks in Syria or Iraq," Valls added.

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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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