PARIS — French authorities claimed Friday the Islamic State had a direct hand in helping five suspected militants plot “imminent attacks” against possible targets including Paris police hubs and Euro Disney.
French police had earlier said they believed they had foiled attacks planned for Dec. 1 against the Paris headquarters of police and intelligence officers and the Disney theme park, which is especially popular during the holiday season.
But the latest details, made public by a senior prosecutor, draw alleged links to the Islamic State and a core network of suspects — four French citizens who were longtime friends. The suspected fifth plotter, a homeless Moroccan man, was arrested in the southern port of Marseille.
A raid Sunday in Strasbourg uncovered firearms and instructions from “the Iraqi-Syrian region” to acquire more weapons, said Paris prosecutor François Molins. Also found were documents professing allegiance to the Islamic State, he said.
“The state of the threat is and remains particularly high,” Molins said.
The names of the Strasbourg suspects were given only as Yassin B., Hicham M., Samy B. and Zakaria M. Icham E., the suspect arrested in Marseille, was homeless, Molins said.
The revelation of the foiled plot comes before the second and final round of France’s conservative presidential primaries on Sunday. Throughout the campaign, the issue of national security has dominated.
The front-runner, former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, has said that France “has a problem linked to Islam.”
France has remained under a state of emergency since the November 2015 Paris attacks, which killed 130 people in coordinated strikes on a concert hall, a stadium and cafes.
In July, a lone man inspired by ISIS plowed a truck through crowds gathered in Nice to celebrate the country’s national holiday, Bastille Day.
The profiles of the suspects involved in each case — predominately young men with either French or European passports — has also touched off a fierce debate about national identity in France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim population.
The outcry over the recent attacks has strengthened the anti-immigrant National Front, a far-right populist movement that was once a political fringe but that now poses a significant electoral challenge to France’s more established, mainstream parties.
“Obviously, these terrorist have chosen a specific moment: the elections,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, director of the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, a Paris-based think tank. “It means the terrorists have a clear political strategy, because, of course, their actions would have an affect in benefiting the extremists.”
In September, authorities claimed they foiled a plot to detonate a car with explosives near Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which French authorities believe to have been the work of Rachid Kassim, the Islamic State operative suspected of orchestrating several other violent instances in France.