Islamic militants arrested in Paris during the last two weeks planned to attack Russian interests and particularly wanted to hit Moscow’s embassy in Paris, the French Interior Ministry said Friday.
The ministry identified one of the group as Menad Benchellali and said his brother, Mourad, is being held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after U.S. forces arrested him in Afghanistan.
Menad Benchellali and two of the other militants had received training at a camp in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, where they met Chechen guerrilla leaders and senior Al Qaeda operatives who were experts in using toxic materials, the ministry said.
It said one suspect also spoke of possible attacks against “Israelis in Palestine.”
French police have arrested nine suspected Islamic militants since Dec. 16 hoping to track down a network believed to have recruited young Muslim men in recent years to train with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Police questioning revealed that the three men who allegedly planned to attack Russian targets were part of the same underground cell even though they were arrested in different raids.
During the raids, police found a list of chemicals and their prices, videotapes of fighting in Chechnya, and materials to forge documents, the ministry statement said.
The cell planned to attack Russian targets to avenge the death of Khattab, an Arab-born Chechen guerrilla leader killed by Russian troops, according to the ministry. Khattab claimed close links with Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.