France detains armed suspect allegedly planning church attack

French official says 24-year-old suspect previously came to attention of French authorities as possibly wanting to go to Syria.

April 22, 2015 13:41
1 minute read.
French police

French police officers [Illustrative]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

French police have detained a man they suspect of planning an imminent armed attack on one or two churches, the interior minister said on Wednesday.

The man, a 24-year-old information technology student, was arrested on Sunday in southeast Paris. A car was also seized along with handguns, other weapons and bulletproof vests, minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

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"In the 13th arrondissement, police discovered in the vehicle and home of an individual who had been shot, a large collection of war weapons, handguns, ammunition, bulletproof jackets and IT and telephone hardware. Detailed documents that were also found established beyond doubt that the individual was planning an imminent attack, probably on one or two churches," Cazeneuve said.

The man was arrested after calling emergency services to treat a wound, an interior ministry source said. When they arrived, they saw the injury was a gunshot wound and notified police. A blood trail led to a car which contained the weapons.

Police suspect the 24-year-old accidentally shot himself, the source said.

Cazeneuve said he had previously come to the attention of the French authorities as possibly wanting to go to Syria.

Police had made checks on him in 2014 and 2015 without finding anything that would warrant further investigation.

"On Sunday morning, the attack was foiled. The individual had been signalled to the police as having a desire to leave for Syria. Checks had been made twice in 2014 and 2015 on this 24-year old IT student's environment, without showing any element that could justify the opening of a judicial investigation," Cazeneuve said.

The man, an Algerian national, is also suspected of being involved in the murder of a 32-year-old woman found dead in her car on Sunday.

"Since Sunday, investigations showed that he was present in Villejuif, Val-de-Marne and that he was involved in the murder of a young woman, Aurelie Chatelain, who was found on Sunday morning in her car parked on the street. The investigation will establish the reasons of the crime committed against this 32-year old woman, coming from Caudry, in the North region and who was the mother of a five-year old girl," Cazeneuve said.
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