Seven people have been arrested after a planned terror attack was foiled in France, the country’s interior minister has said. The suspects – of French, Moroccan, and Afghan origin and aged between 29 and 37 years old – were detained in the southern port city of Marseille and the eastern city of Strasbourg overnight on Saturday and Sunday.
One of the world’s oldest and largest Christmas markets is due to open in Strasbourg this Friday. The market is thought to have been one of the attackers’ targets along with a local police station and several as-yet-undisclosed public places, according to Le Parisien.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the arrests prevented “a terrorist act that had been envisaged for a long time”. He added that the ensuing police probe would show whether “the foiled attack was a coordinated attack aiming to target several sites simultaneously on our soil”. He also said:
“An attack has been foiled … The scale of the terrorist threat is enormous and it is not possible to ensure zero risk despite everything we are doing.”
He gave no information on the target of the planned attack. But a source close to the inquiry told Reuters that Strasbourg had not been targeted.The mayor of Strasbourg said it appeared that the plot had focused on “the Paris region”.
Stéphane Fratacci, the Government representative for Strasbourg, said the hugely popular Christmas market, which attracts more than two million visitors each year, could be “canceled or postponed” in light of the terror threat.
France remains under emergency rule after a number of high-profile attacks by Islamic fundamentalist groups.