A police official in the Herault region confirmed the overnight arrests in the city of Beziers, and said Sunday that the DGSI domestic intelligence service and national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office are handling the investigation.
Investigators centered on an 18-year-old woman living in a housing project in Beziers who is suspected of plotting an attack targeting nearby Montpellier, according to Mayor Robert Menard. The 18-year-old’s mother and three sisters were also arrested, including one who is a minor, he said.
The 18-year-old had “boasted” to neighbors about watching Islamic State videos, Menard told The Associated Press, though he said he didn’t know whether she or her family had been on authorities’ radar for radicalism.
Asked about the investigation and arrests, which took place overnight, government spokesman Gabriel Attal told LCI TV that he had no further information at this stage about what the possible plot was targeting.
However there are suggestions in other newspapers that the target was a church or churches, during the celebration of Easter, our most important Christian festival. According to i24
A judicial source told French media that only one of the women detained is suspected of wanting to carry out the violent plot.
The other four women - the mother and three sisters of the person initially targeted by the operation - were arrested because they were present at the home, said this source.
During the arrests, the police notably discovered a saber, a source close to the investigation said, adding that searches were underway on Sunday.
According to this source, it seems that one or multiple churches in Montpellier was likely the main target in the plot.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin (said) "I do not know yet if it is a foiled attack but serious threats were consistent and it is with good reason that the DGSI (...) intervened,"
Police have also opened a preliminary terrorism investigation into the matter.