French police have arrested a suspected militant linked to a terrorist cell that was planning a new attack on French soil, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve reported. Police are now carrying out more raids at locations in Argenteuil near Paris.
The suspect was arrested on Thursday morning by the French counterterrorism service, DGSI, according to Cazeneuve.
Security services managed to “foil a plot in France that was at an advanced stage,” the minister said.
Following the arrest, the police conducted a night raid targeting an apartment building in Argenteuil, a northwestern Paris suburb, Cazeneuve added.
Heavily armed police have cordoned-off General Delambre Boulevard in Argenteuil and evacuated the entire apartment block targeted in the raid, local media reported, citing witnesses. Traffic on nearby streets has also been affected.
Notably, the planned attack is being treated as a separate new plot, as French police have found no evidence linking it to the November 2015 Paris attacks, or the latest twin attacks in Brussels that killed at least 34 people and injured over 270 on March 22. The Brussels suicide bombings have been linked to the arrest of Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam on Friday, March 18.
At this stage, there is no tangible evidence that links this plot to the attacks in Paris and Brussels,” said Cazeneuve, who was in the Belgian capital on Thursday, according to Reuters.
Cazeneuve did not specify if the suspect arrested was linked to a terrorist group such as Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL), which had earlier claimed responsibility for both the Brussels bombings and the series of attacks in Paris, in which 130 died. He did, however, reveal that the suspect was a French national.
“The individual questioned, a French national, is suspected of high-level involvement in this plan. He was part of a terrorist network that planned to strike France,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, French media reports claim that the terror suspect arrested on Thursday morning had already been sentenced in Belgium for ties to a jihadist network, Reuters said, citing France Info radio. Police have reportedly found explosives in the suspect’s house, according to ITele TV.
6 detained in Brussels police raids
Meanwhile in Belgium’s capital, police arrested six people during raids in Brussels’ northern borough of Schaerbeek and western borough of Jette, as well as in the city center, the country’s federal prosecutors office has announced.
The suspects have not yet been charged, pending a decision on Friday.