French authorities have detained two men on suspicion of plotting an imminent attack.
The arrests were made in the southern city of Marseille, just five days before the first round of the presidential election.
According to Paris Prosecutor François Molins, a machine gun, two hand guns and three kilos of TATP explosive were found in a flat which was raided in connection with the investigation.
“Mahiedine M. and Clement B., both French nationals, both well known for their radicalisation by the specialised services and classified on the terror watch list since 2016 and 2015, met each other in prison where they shared their cell for about two months in 2015 for common crimes,” said Molins.
ISIL and jihadist propaganda had previously been found at the home of one of the suspects, Molins said. The other is believed to have had links to a Belgian jihadist cell.
France’s DGSI domestic intelligence agency reportedly suspects the pair of planning an attack to coincide with Sunday’s ballot (April 23).
Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said a definite attack had been headed off.
“These two radicalised French nationals, born in 1987 and 1993, intended to commit in the very short-term – and by that I mean in the coming days – an attack on French soil,” Fekl told a press conference.
More than 230 people have been killed in Islamist attacks in France over the last two years, pushing President François Hollande to declare France a nationwide state of emergency. National security has been high on candidates’ agendas in the run-up to the first-round vote.
The suspects had been sought by the DGSI for over a week. It warned main candidates in the ballot of a threat to their security, according to campaign officials.