French police have arrested a radicalised former soldier near a French military airbase in Normandy. The man is known to the police as he is listed on France’s terror watchlist.
At around midnight between Thursday and Friday, police found a “suspicious car” near the Evreux 105 airbase, “which turned out to belong to a radicalised man”, a police source told AFP.
The vicinity was immediately searched, resulting in the arrest of the man, who has not been named, at about 5am on Friday morning near the military base.
According to the source, weapons were found in a nearby thicket, including “a shotgun, two black powder revolvers and bullets”.
A search of his home uncovered a Quran and a gun cartridge. Anti-terror agencies have been informed of the arrest, the source confirmed.
The man, who is on France’s “S” list of individuals who could pose a security threat, is believed to be a former soldier who undertook “external operations” in foreign combat zones, The Telegraph has reported.
Detectives are investigating his reasons for being near the base.
The arrest comes as France is on high alert ahead of the presidential elections, which will be decided on Sunday.
As many as 50,000 security staff will be standing guard at polling stations and landmarks across the country, in light of recent attacks.
More than 230 people have been killed by Islamic extremists in France over the last two years, including 130 people killed in a Paris mass shooting at multiple locations on the night of 13 November, 2015.
The most recent victim was Xavier Jugelé, a 37-year-old officer who was shot in the head by a 39-year-old Islamic State gunman whilst on patrol near the Champs-Élysées in April, days before the first round of voting in the French presidential elections.
Security and Islamic extremism were flash points in a televised debate between the two remaining presidential candidates.
Right wing candidate Marine Le Pen accused her rival Emmanual Macron of complacency on terror, saying: “You have no plan [on security] but you are indulgent with Islamist fundamentalism. They control you.”
Mr. Macron hit back: “I will lead a fight against Islamist terrorism at every level. But what they are wanting, the trap they are holding out for us, is the one that you offer – civil war.”