PARIS (AP) French police thwarted an imminent “terror attack,” arresting two suspected radicals Tuesday in the southern port city of Marseille, the interior minister said just days before the first round of France’s presidential election.
The two men “intended to commit an attack on French soil in the very short term, which is to say in coming days,” Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said at a brief news conference.
France votes Sunday in the first round of its two-stage election, with security ramped up for the ballot after a series of attacks in recent years that have made security one of the major issues of the campaign.
The men, both French, one born in 1987 and the other in 1993, are “suspected of wanting to commit, in an imminent way, a violent action on the eve of the French presidential election,” the minister said.
He gave no details about potential targets or motives.
President Francois Hollande hailed the “remarkable” arrests and the work of police.
Agents from the French domestic security agency, backed by elite police units, conducted the arrests. Searches are also underway, Fekl said.
France’s fight against homegrown and overseas Islamic extremism has been one of the main soapboxes for presidential candidates, particularly those on the right, seeking to appeal to voters traumatized by Islamic State group-inspired attacks that have killed at least 235 people in France since January 2015, by far the largest casualty rate of any Western country.
With the terror threat “higher than ever,” Fekl said “everything is being done” to secure the election, the candidates, their election headquarters and rallies.
He said more than 50,000 police, gendarmes and soldiers will be deployed in France and its overseas territories on Sunday and the decisive second-round vote on May 7.