French police hold man suspected of plotting church attack

Islamic extremist planned church attack, French officials say; suspect held in death of woman

An Islamic extremist with an arsenal of heavy weapons planned an imminent attack on one or more French churches, France's top security official said Wednesday, announcing the arrest of the man who is also accused in the death of a young mother.

The 24-year-old computer science student was flagged as a risk by security officials last year, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

A French security official, who was not authorized to publicly release details of the arrest, said the suspect -- an Algerian who had lived in France for several years -- was arrested Sunday after he apparently shot himself by accident and called for an ambulance. Police who arrived at the scene found a blood trail leading to his car, which had loaded guns and notes about potential targets inside, the official said.

More weapons were found In the man's apartment in southeastern Paris, along with evidence of ties to Islamic extremism, the official said. There was no immediate evidence that the suspect had direct ties to any organized groups, the official said.

Aurelie Chatelain, a 32-year-old Frenchwoman visiting Paris for a training session for her work, was found shot to death on Sunday morning in her car. The security official said she appeared to have been killed by the suspect at random.

France has been on edge since the Jan. 7-9 attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris left 20 people dead, including the three gunmen.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

2:24 a.m.: This article has been updated to include additional background information. 

This article was originally published at 1:17 a.m.

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