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What we know about France's foiled terror plot

The Local · 16 Jul 2015, 13:54

Published: 16 Jul 2015 13:54 GMT+02:00
Updated: 16 Jul 2015 13:54 GMT+02:00

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France is on high alert for more terror attacks with the French PM Manuel Valls recently declaring that it was a question of when, and not if, another atrocity would take place on French soil.

After the January shootings in Paris and the beheading of a local businessman in an attempt to blow up a factory near Lyon last month, French counter-terror police have been expecting more attacks.

This week it emerged they had foiled another gruesome plot, this time to strike at the heart of the French army.

Here's what we know:

What was the actual plot?

According to the Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve the suspects arrested on Monday were planning to “strike against France’s military installations”.

As more details slipped out on Thursday it emerged that they were planning to target the Fort Bear military base at Port-Vendres, near the city of Perpignan in the south west.

The location was apparently chosen because of its symbolism. Fort Bear is one of the training centres for France's special commando forces who take part in foreign missions such as the French intervention in Mali and Central African Republic.

Sources close to the investigation have told French media that they planned to kidnap and then behead a high-ranking member of the military on January 7th 2016, to mark a year since the terror attacks in Paris.

The horrific decapitation was to be filmed on a go-pro camera and the video uploaded to the internet for all to see.

(The military base at Port Vendres, where the alleged terror plot was due to take place)

Who are the suspects:

Four young men were arrested on Monday after dawn raids were carried out in various parts of France. The youngest of them was aged just 16. He was later released on Thursday morning when the time limits for keeping him in custody ran out. The others were aged 17, 19 and 23 years old.

According to the three other suspects the 16-year-old was eventually sidelined from the plot because they deemed him too young.

All the suspects were described as “radicalised Muslims”.

The 23-year-old, considered one of the leaders of the group, is believed to be an ex-member of the French navy. He was apparently kicked out of France’s national marines at the beginning of the year for apparent bad behaviour. He had been based at the Fort Bear base and it was former commanding officer that they apparently wanted to target.

According to reports he liked to be known as "the Emir".

Story continues below…

How was the plot foiled?

According to France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve the 17-year-old member of the group came on the radar of French intelligence services after expressing his desire to go and fight in Syria.

They became aware of him because it became clear he had been radicalised as he was active on social network sites and had been in contact with French jihadists who are now in prison.

According to French police sources quoted by BFM TV, this suspect had already been questioned by France’s counter-terrorist police at the DGSI back in the autumn of 2014.

Authorities didn’t have enough evidence to file charges against him but instead placed him under surveillance by wiretapping his phone. This led investigators to the other suspects.

The DGSI decided to carry out their raids this week, fearing that the plot could be put into action sooner than first thought. With France celebrating its national day on July 14th they decided they could not take the risk of simply keeping the suspects under surveillance.

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