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Two men held over terror plot in Marseille

The Local, Apr 18

Two men suspected of plotting an "imminent" terror attack in France have been arrested in Marseille. Sources have told French media the plot targeted a candidate in the French presidential election. 

The suspects are aged 23 and 29 and are of French nationality, sources have told L'Express newspaper. They were known to police for being radicalised and both come from the north of the country.

One of the suspects was a convert to radical Islam.

They were arrested by French domestic intelligence service agents from the DGSI in the southern city of Marseille, one of the sources told AFP.

According to the latest reports police have searched an apartment in Marseille where guns were found as well as a quantity of TATP explosives, the chemicals used to make the bomb belts in the Paris attacks.

The block of flats in the 13th arrondissement of Marseille where the searches have taken place has been evacuated.

Several French media cite sources in the intelligence services who say the attack plot was targeting a specific presidential candidate, the name of whom has not been revealed.

This has not been confirmed by authorities but aides to candidates have told AFP they have been warned of specific terror threats against them.

Reports claim a video made by the two men in which they declared allegiance to Isis was found and that the front page of a newspaper showing the candidate they reportedly intended to target was also found in their possession.

Sources close to the investigation have told French media they were ready to act "imminently". They were arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into suspected terrorist and arms offences.

France's Minister of Interior Matthias Fekl said the pair were ready to carry out an attack on French soil "in the next couple of days."

He provided little details about the alleged plot but said: "Everything would be done to ensure security around the elections".

France has been on high alert ever since a series of attacks in 2015 and 2016 left over 230 dead in Paris and Nice. The recent attacks in London and Stockholm have only heightened worries.

Authorities have been particularly concerned that jihadists would try to target the presidential election, the first round of which is on Sunday.

Interior Minister Matthias Fekl has announced that 50,000 officers will be mobilised across the country's 67,000 polling stations to try to prevent any terror attack or other outbreaks of violence by extremist groups.

Fekl told The Journal du Dimanche on Sunday that the threat was "high and permanent".

French police have made numerous arrests for suspected terrorist offences since the beginning of the year.

According to the Journal du Dimanche the DGSI intelligence services have warned the main candidates over "a specific threat to their security and on their campaign headquarters".

Security has been tight at campaign events with snipers and specialist anti-terror police units being deployed at a François Fillon campaign event in Montpellier and bomb disposal experts checking venues ahead of each rally.

Polls have shown that voters are more concerned about unemployment and their spending power than terrorism or security, though analysts warn this could change quickly in the event of further bloodshed.

Anti-EU, anti-immigration candidate Marine Le Pen has sought to cast herself as the best defender of France against the threat of fresh attacks.

At a campaign rally in Paris on Monday night she declared the terror attacks of Nice and Paris would not have happened if she had been in power.

Marine Le Pen's headquarters were targeted by petrol bombs earlier this month. The attack was claimed by an anti-fascist group. There were also ugly scenes with anti-fascist protesters clashing with police ahead of Le Pen's rally in Paris on Monday night.

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