Two men were arrested in Marseille on Tuesday on suspicion of planning an “imminent” attack in France. During the searches conducted in the apartment rented by the suspects, firearms and a large quantity of explosives were found. One of the eleven candidates in the presidential election was certainly a potential target of the failed attack.
Two men suspected of preparing an attack “in the coming days” on French soil, were arrested by the DGSI assisted by officers from RAID, this Tuesday in Marseille, five days before the presidential election.
According to the interior minister, Mathias Fekl, the two suspects “ intended to commit in the very short term, that is to say in the next few days, an attack on French soil”. This attack was certainly one of the eleven candidates in the presidential election.
The head of state, François Hollande, praised a “remarkable decision” after this double arrest . “All I can say is that our services and our police worked remarkably allowing us to stop two people who will now be confronted before judges and police so that we know exactly what their intentions”, he said since the Creusot.
Who are the suspects?
The two suspects, aged 23 and 29 years old, were actively sought since the end of last week as part of a open investigation on the 12th April in Paris for criminal association, terrorist conspiracy and violation of the gun laws in relation with a terrorist enterprise.
The younger of the two suspects, born in the Val d’Oise where he was no longer living, is a convert to Islam. The second, from Croix, near Roubaix, was radicalized in prison, according to sources.
Arrested in late 2013 for drug trafficking, the suspect of 29 years was sentenced to three years in prison, according to La Voix du Nord. Imprisoned in Sequedin, near Lille, he was transferred in late May 2015 LONGUENESSE penitentiary center (Pas-de-Calais), a local representative of the UNSA-UFAP Justice of the Sequedin prison: “At we had not been identified, to my knowledge, as radicalization in progress “ , according to Benoît Normand.
On the 7th December, an administrative search took place of the home at Roubaix but the man was absent when passing police also wanted to notify house arrest, said a sources close to the investigation.
Two months earlier, an intelligence indicated that the two men tried to obtain weapons, according to these sources. They both had contacts in the southeast of France, especially via relationships with Chechens. At this point, we do not know if they have a possible visit to Syria-Iraq area.
The two suspects had rented an apartment in the third arrondissement of Marseille, in a neighborhood near the Saint-Charles train station, just a few days. There they were arrested on Tuesday between 10 am and 11 am.
Who are their targets ?
According to Le Parisien , the two radicalized men had intended to attack one of eleven candidates in the presidential election.
The newspaper reported that investigators found a video in which two suspected terrorists swear allegiance to Daech. We also perceive in these images the One of a newspaper on which there is François Fillon. According to Le Parisien, it is an issue of Provence dated 12th April and published after a meeting of the LR candidate in Marseille.
A photo showing one of the two men with Le Monde on the 16th March, which included François Fillon and holding an Uzi submachine gun and an Arabic inscription meaning “law of retaliation” was also discovered by investigators, reveals a source close to the investigation.
The safety of the former prime minister had been strengthened after the latter had been informed of “proven risks” on Friday 14th April.
Other candidates had also received reports of two people wanted from last week. “Their photos have been sent to my security officers from Thursday”, said Marine Le Pen, who must hold a meeting in Marseille on Tuesday evening. The entourage of the candidate from En March confirmed that the security team of Emmanuel Macron had received the same photos that day.
What investigators found during the searches?
In addition to video and photography mentioned above, handguns and long arms and large quantities of explosives (TATP, the improvised explosive) were found in the Marseille apartment where the two men lived since some days.
A search for further explosives and clearance operation is underway and neighbors were evacuated from the building.
What is the reaction of the presidential candidates?
The candidate from En March!, Emmanuel Macron, extended his congratulations to all police departments. These events “are a reminder that the terrorist threat is still very high on our territory” , said the presidential candidate in a statement. Terrorism “is a threat to our country for many years and especially during the democratic exercise that we live at the moment […] It is a challenge that calls more than any other in the rally, because terrorists want nothing but our division “ , he held.
François Fillon echoed on Twitter, saying that “democracy must not bow to threats and intimidation by terrorists.” “The campaign should continue until the end. “
La démocratie ne doit pas plier devant les menaces et les intimidations des terroristes. pic.twitter.com/nznvKeLZ4D
— François Fillon (@FrancoisFillon) April 18, 2017
Benoît Hamon also congratulated the police for their action:
J’adresse mes félicitations aux forces de police qui ont déjoué le projet d’attentat qui visait les candidats à l’élection présidentielle.
— Benoît Hamon (@benoithamon) April 18, 2017
In this context, the candidate of France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon sent two SMS support, one to François Fillon, the other to Emmanuel Macron, reveals BFMTV.
“Total solidarity against the threat. What our complete opposition campaign is the best denials program to the totalitarian terrorist “ , wrote Jean-Luc Mélenchon candidate LR.
The SMS was sent to Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, more personalized: “Emotion and full personal solidarity. Our country and our Republican opposition is demonstrating the failure of violent project. “
Consequences for the presidential election?
The interior minister, Mathias Fekl assured that everything would be done to ensure the proper conduct of the presidential election and ensure security around polling stations Sunday, April 23 and Sunday, May 7
“The Interior Ministry services are totally more than ever mobilized around France to ensure the safety of the French, for the proper place of the presidential campaign, to ensure the safety meetings and gatherings, to ensure safety candidates and their campaign headquarters “ , he said.
“More than 50 000 police officers, gendarmes and soldiers” will be made to ensure the security of the election, especially in the 67,000 polling stations, he recalled.