Police in Paris have foiled a subway lethal bomb plot that could have been the biggest attack since an Algerian Islamist group killed eight people and injured close to a hundred in 1995.
Forensics experts believe that bomb-making material discovered in a garage east of Paris was sufficient to make a massive explosive device.
The case revives the specter of attacks by Islamist groups angry at French foreign policy in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa, as well as memories of Mohamed Merah, the young al Qaeda-inspired gunman who killed seven people including three Jewish children in southwestern France in March.
The investigation lasted four days in which detectives have quizzed 12 people who were rounded up in raids last Saturday. Another suspect was shot dead after he fired at police with a Smith & Wesson revolver.
Molins said the operation had dismantled what he called “a terrorist group that is probably the most dangerous (seen in France) since 1996.”
Seven of the 12 were being placed under official inquiry on suspicion of terrorist activity, while five others taken into custody at the weekend were being released, he told a news conference.
Authorities moved in on the suspects after a late-September attack on a kosher food shop north of Paris. Molins said that attack, using what he described as an M75 grenade of the kind made in the former Yugoslavia, was intended to kill, even if nobody died.
Follow-up surveillance of the suspects triggered last Saturday’s police raids in the southern city of Cannes, in Strasbourg in eastern France and in Torcy, a suburb east of Paris where the police found a garage packed with bomb-making materials.
Along with a shotgun, investigators in Paris also found a rifle, 800 bullet rounds and cash, police found a large quantity of potassium nitrate, sulphur, five meters of cable, alarm clocks, headlamp bulbs and a pressure cooker that could serve as a bomb casing.