Attack averted on French Olympic soccer match in St Etienne, authorities say

By Dominique Vidalon and Sudip Kar-Gupta

PARIS (Reuters) -An 18-year-old Chechen man was arrested in the French town of Saint-Etienne this month, suspected of planning an attack in the name of Islamic State at the city's soccer stadium during this summer's Olympics, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Friday.

An anti-terrorism prosecutor said the suspect had been put under formal investigation on May 26.

The suspect, whom authorities did not name, is also accused of associating with terrorists, and is in detention.

With less than two months to go before the Paris Summer Olympics, France is on its highest level of security alert, but Darmanin said the foiled attack was the first one known to have targeted the sporting event.

In a statement, he said the suspect appeared to have been planning to attack the Geoffroy Guichard stadium during the Olympic soccer tournament and was inspired by Islamist ideology.

"He wanted to attack spectators, but also security forces, and die as a martyr," Darmanin added.

He later told reporters that the man had planned to target fans outside the stadium because security would be too tight inside.

"Thanks to his IT equipment and the searches we conducted, we were able to establish that this person wanted to act," Darmanin said, adding that the suspect was not previously known to security services.

His under-aged brother was arrested at the same time but later released.

In 2020, Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old history and geography teacher, was stabbed and then beheaded near his secondary school in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.

Paty's attacker was an 18-year-old Chechen refugee, who was subsequently shot dead by police at the scene.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon;Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Hugh Lawson, David Gregorio and Kevin Liffey)