Authorities in France say they have arrested two suspected terrorists allegedly planning a mass stabbing attack to kill “disbelievers” during the Christmas holidays in Paris, according to French media reports.
One of the two men arrested from separate homes in the greater Paris area pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and told police he was plotting to kill non-Muslims and hoping to be shot dead to become a “martyr,” The French newspaper Le Figaro reports.
Both suspects are 23 years old and were planning knife attacks targeting areas heavily trafficked during the Christmas season, including shopping centers, universities and streets, according to Agence France-Presse.
The two were monitored by the General Directorate of Internal Security and were arrested on Dec. 3. French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin confirmed the arrests on social media.
The second suspect didn’t admit he was planning any terror attack, but police found Islamic State propaganda at his home.
“At least one of the two had a plan to act by the end of the year,” a source with knowledge of the case told AFP.
“We have detected [online] exchanges between them and … that led us to believe that their plan was serious and imminent.”
It’s the fourth terror plot French police have foiled this year.
Over the last several years, France has seen an uptick in terror attacks targeting soft target zones and civilians carried out by Islamic extremists.
In December 2018, five people were killed and 11 injured during an attack on a Christmas market in Strasbourg.
In October 2020, 21-year-old Brahim Aioussaoi from Tunisia attacked a mass in Nice’s Notre Dame Basilica, killing three Christians. He nearly beheaded one of his victims and cut the throat of another.UnmuteAdvanced SettingsFullscreenPauseUp Next
The victims were two women and the church sacristan. The suspect injured several others.
Pictures from inside the basilica showed chairs scattered, broken and overturned in the attack.
Police shot the suspect, then gave him medical aid. Even under anesthetic, he continued saying, “Allahu Akbar,” Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi told Radio France Internationale at the time. The mayor called the attack “Islamo-fascist.”
The attack happened on the birthday of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. It came over a week after a French teacher was beheaded after showing a caricature of Muhammad from the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo as part of a lesson on free speech.
In July 2016, France experienced a horrific terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 84 people and left hundreds injured when a Tunisian-born Frenchman Mohamed Bouhlel drove a cargo truck into a crowded area of Nice.
In November 2015, a wave of attacks by gunmen and bombers killed 127 people across Paris.
While four gunmen killed at least 87 young people at a rock concert at the Bataclan concert hall, 40 more people were killed in five other attacks in the Paris region, including a suicide bombing outside the Stade de France national stadium.
In July 2020, the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe reported a 285% increase in the number of “anti-Christian incidents” in France over the last decade.