Five men who were arrested on Sunday in France were Islamic State operatives planning an “imminent” attack under the direction of a commander based in the terrorist group’s haven in Iraq and Syria, the authorities announced on Friday.
The news immediately raised worries in France, which has been struck by three major terrorist attacks since January 2015, killing more than 200 people.
The five men, ages 26 to 37, appeared before a special terrorism judge on Friday and were being investigated on terrorist conspiracy and weapons charges, according to the Paris prosecutor, François Molins, whose office handles terrorism cases nationwide. The five were among seven arrested in Strasbourg and Marseille on Sunday; the other two have since been released.
The arrests came shortly before the popular Christmas market in Strasbourg opened on Friday; the annual tradition attracts 2 million visitors every year.
Four of the suspects were arrested in Strasbourg. They were planning an attack for Dec. 1, Mr. Molins said, while adding that it was not yet clear what their target was “among all those that the group envisaged.”
Referring to news reports this week that militants were targeting the Disneyland Paris amusement park outside the capital, the Champs-Élysées in Paris, and several other places, Mr. Molins said that the information was “detrimental to the ongoing investigations,” but he did not deny the reports.
“It appears on one hand that the offenders were in possession of, or searching for, weapons and money, and on the other hand that they were about to take action and were looking for targets,” Mr. Molins said.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Benoit Morenne