French police thwart ‘imminent’ terrorist attack, arrest four people

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Armed gendarmes stand guard in a street in Marseillan, about 40 kilometres southwest from Montpellier, southern France, on February 10, 2017, where suspects believed to be involved in plotting an attack were arrested by French anti-terrorist police (RAID). Four people including a 16-year-old girl were arrested on February 10 by anti-terrorist police in Montpellier on suspicion of preparing an attack, a police source said. The other suspects were aged 20, 26 and 33, according to the source. The four were arrested after buying acetone, a highly flammable liquid that can be used to make bombs. France remains on high alert after a wave of attacks which began two years ago that has claimed more than 200 lives. / AFP / SYLVAIN THOMAS (Photo credit should read SYLVAIN THOMAS/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Suspects arrested Friday in a foiled terror plot in France had just started making the same powerful explosive used in the ISIS-directed Paris and Brussels attacks, and they appear to have been inspired by the terror group, a source close to the investigation tells CNN.

French police “thwarted an imminent attack on French soil” when they arrested four people, including a 16-year-old girl and three men, in cities across France, the interior minister said in a statement.

A partially assembled improvised explosive device was also found as part of the investigation, according to the statement by Bruno Le Roux. The plotters had just begun making TATP, the same high explosive used in Paris and Brussels, when they were arrested, the source tells CNN.

At least one of the suspects had pledged allegiance to ISIS in the past, the source said.

The arrests in Montpellier, Clapiers and Marseillan follow a two-week investigation led by the anti-terrorist division of the Paris Public Prosecutor in collaboration with the judicial police of Montpellier and the national police force, the statement said.

Le Roux praised the work of investigators that led to the arrests, “among them three directly suspected of preparing a violent attack against our territory.”

The announcement came a week after a soldier shot a man wielding a machete near the Louvre museum in Paris. French authorities opened a terror investigation after police said the man, a 29-year-old Egyptian and a resident of the United Arab Emirates, wielded the knife and shouted “Allahu akbar,” an Arabic phrase that translates to “God is greatest.” One soldier was injured.

France has been under a state of emergency since the Paris terror attacks in November 2015, in which 130 people were killed and hundreds injured in massacres at a theater, a stadium and cafes. That January, 17 people were killed in attacks in Paris on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and at a kosher grocery store, and in the Paris suburb of Montrouge.

Last July, a radicalized Tunisian plowed a 20-ton truck into crowds on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice during a Bastille Day celebration, killing 86 people and injuring 200 others.

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