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TERRORISM

France says suspected poison terror attack foiled after brothers arrested

Police in France have foiled a suspected terror attack and arrested two brothers of Egyptian origin in Paris, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said on Friday. The pair are suspected of planning attack using the poison ricin.

France says suspected poison terror attack foiled after brothers arrested
File photo: A police officer stands with members of the RAID police unit officers. AFP

“There were two young people of Egyptian origin who were preparing to commit an attack, with either explosives or ricin, this very powerful poison,” the minister said on BFMTV.

“They had tutorials that showed how to make ricin-based poisons,” Collomb said, adding that they had communicated via the Telecom encrypted messaging app.

The revelation came after a 29-year-old man was killed and five other people injured in a deadly knife attack in Paris last Saturday night.

Collomb did not indicate when they were arrested, but a source close to the inquiry said they were detained in the northern 18th Arrondissement of Paris on May 11, the day before Khamzat Azimov carried out his knife rampage.

In February Collomb said that France had foiled two terror attacks since the beginning of the year targeting a leading sports team and the armed forces.

“Since January 1, we have foiled two planned attacks which had not been totally finalised but a number of people were in the process of trying to 
execute them,” Collomb told Europe 1 radio at the time.

One was “in the east” of the country and one “in the west”, he said. One of them was planned against a “big sports team” where “young people were 
targeted”, and the other the armed forces.

He said police had followed a number of people suspected Islamists and arrested them.

“That is how we were able to thwart” these plots, Collomb said, but declined to give further details as to the location of those held or the planned targets.   

According to official figures, 20 attacks were foiled in France in 2017.

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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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