A radicalized French teenager had been planning to carry out a knife attack at a popular weekend spot for families and tourists, investigators said.
The 15-year-old, already on a high-security threat list, was arrested on Saturday, one week after French police prevented an attack in central Paris by a group of female Islamic State followers who tried to blow up a car filled with gas bottles.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned on Sunday that the terrorist threat was at its “maximum” level and said France’s security forces were “foiling attacks every single day.”
The unnamed youth was arrested at his home near the Coulée Verte, a “green corridor” walkway in Paris similar to New York’s High Line, where detectives allege he was planning to stab random passers-by last weekend.
The teenager had already been under house arrest at his family home in the 12th arrondissement of the French capital for the last five months, as part of the state of emergency introduced in France following the November 2015 attacks. He was detained in April 2016 and questioned about alleged plans to travel to join Islamic State in Syria.
Police reported that he had been in contact with Rachid Kassim, a French jihadi who is fighting with Islamic State in Syria. Kassim has also been linked to the killer of two police officers in a Paris suburb in June and two men who cut the throat of a Catholic priest in Normandy in July. In both cases, the terrorists were killed by police.
Investigators are attempting to unravel the network around Kassim, whose members communicated using the heavily encrypted message system Telegram. They believe Kassim, who uses the pseudonym Ibn Qassim, has been directing the recent terror attack attempts in France from his Islamic State hideout in Syria.
“The women, our sisters, went into action. Where are our brothers?” Kassim posted on Telegram after the women were arrested last week, according to French media. “Where are the men?…You have to understand that if these women went into action, it’s because so few men are doing anything … why are you waiting so long to the point the woman are overtaking you in terms of honor?”
Five French women between 16 and 39 are in police custody being questioned about the latest terrorist plots. One, Ornella Gilligmann, 29, a mother of three young children, has been charged over the failed attack near Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Sept. 3. Gilligmann was also known to French intelligence services after allegedly trying to travel to Syria.
On Thursday last week, police arrested three more women: Ines Madani, whose father owned the Peugeot, and two others named only as Sarah H, age 23, and Amel S, age 39. The 16-year-old daughter of Amel S was arrested later.
French public prosecutor Francois Molins said in a televised news conference last week that the women were “determined.” He said Sarah H had been engaged to Larossi Abballa, 25, who killed a police commander and his partner, also a police officer, in front of their infant son in June. After Abballa was killed in that attack, she became engaged to Adel Kermiche, 19 — before he was also shot dead while participating in the killing of a priest in Normandy a month later.
The three women were confronted by police as they left a flat in the suburbs of Paris, allegedly on their way to carry out another attack at the Gare de Lyon station. During the arrest, one of the women stabbed a police officer with a kitchen knife. Madani allegedly jumped on another and tried to stab him. In Madani’s handbag, detectives say they found the keys to the Peugeot 607 and a note pledging allegiance to Islamic State.
On Sunday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the threat of a terrorist attack remained “maximum.”
“We have seen this the last few days, the last few hours, and even as I speak,” Valls said in a televised interview.
“Every day, the intelligence services, the police, gendarmes, are foiling attacks, unraveling Iraqi-Syrian networks. The threat today is maximum and we are a target, everyone understands that.”
Valls said 700 French jihadis were believed to be fighting with Islamic State in Syria, among them more than 200 women. French intelligence services were watching 15,000 people suspected of being radicalized.