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France

Terrorist motive suspected as six arrested in plot to attack French President Emmanuel Macron

  • Judicial official says plan to target the French president appeared to be vague and unfinished, but violent
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2018, 7:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2018, 10:34pm

French security agents have arrested six people on suspicion of plotting to attack French President Emmanuel Macron, according to a French judicial official.

Prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation of alleged criminal terrorist association, the judicial official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the allegations, said intelligence agents detained the six suspects in three scattered regions: one in the Alps, another in Brittany and four near the Belgian border in Moselle.

It was not immediately clear what the connection between those arrested was.

The plan to target the French president appeared to be vague and unfinished, but violent, the official said.

Authorities said the six were between the ages of 22 and 62 and included one woman.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters they are believed to be far-right activists. Authorities feared “concrete threats” from the group, Castaner said.

In an interview published on Sunday, Macron warned of the threat from far-right movements across Europe, saying complacency during the 1930s was what had opened the way for the rise of Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy.

In June, 10 people linked to France’s radical far right were placed under formal investigation on suspicion of links to terrorist networks.

A source close to the investigation said the 10 belonged to a hardline group whose stated intent was to “fight against the threat of Islam” and were suspected of planning an attack on Muslims.

The June raids led to the seizure of ingredients for making explosives as well as guns and ammunition.

It was not clear if Tuesday’s security operation was connected to the June arrests.

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French presidents have been targeted several times over the decades. In 2002, a far-right sympathiser tried to attack President Jacques Chirac on the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris during Bastille Day celebrations.

Macron was in the northeastern French city of Verdun on Tuesday as part of centenary commemorations for the end of first world war, where he announced that those who fought during war will be collectively honoured at the Pantheon monument in Paris, a resting place for some of France’s most distinguished names.

The alleged plot was uncovered days before US President Donald Trump and dozens of other world leaders are due in France for weekend observances marking the signing 100 years ago of the November 11 armistice that ended first world war.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, French police detained a woman at a hospital in Dunkirk after she made a bomb threat and sparked a security scare.

Police said in a statement that the woman made the threat after entering the hospital’s emergency care unit.

Hospital workers alerted the police, who sealed off the area and deployed a bomb-disposal team.

“The person is under police control,” the statement said.

Regional newspaper La Voix du Nord had reported that the woman was threatening to detonate a bomb.

Photos posted on the paper’s website showed police sealing off the area.

Police said a judicial investigation would have to determine the circumstances surrounding the threat. Sources said the woman was likely suffering from psychological problems.