French Police Foil Church Attack, Arrest Alleged Jihadi Who Shot Himself

AFP Photo/Kenzo Tribouillard
AFP Photo/Kenzo Tribouillard

French authorities arrested a 24-year-old Algerian, allegedly planning an “imminent attack” on the nation’s churches. The man, believed to be an aspiring ISIS jihadist “known to security services as having expressed a wish to travel to Syria,” was arrested after shooting himself.

CNN‘s report adds the detail that the suspect was a computer science student. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve is quoted talking about how France “faces a new terrorist threat by its nature and by its scale,” and Prime Minister Manuel Valis mentions the Charlie Hebdo attack. French authorities have connected him to the death of a 32-year-old mother of a 5-year-old girl, as well.

USA Today confirms what BBC and CNN avoided writing outright: “The man, who was not identified by police, was said to be an Islamic extremist known to security forces. He was arrested after apparently shooting himself and calling for an ambulance.”

USA Today further relates the words of a French security official quoted by the Associated Press: “Also found in the suspect’s apartment in southeastern Paris was evidence of ties to Islamic extremism, the official said. He added that there was no immediate evidence that the suspect had direct ties to any organized groups.”

French police say they “discovered an arsenal in his car and at his home composed of several military weapons.” The UK Daily Mail says the arsenal at his student apartment included “three automatic rifles, handguns, and bulletproof vests,” as well as “Jihadi flags and literature, false passports, and plans for attacks on ‘one or two’ churches in the Paris area.”

The church attack was aborted because the alleged terrorist acquired a bullet in the leg and called an ambulance for help. Most reports say he shot himself by accident, although the French AFP news service says he told the police he was “wounded during a settling of scores.” The authorities seem to be highly skeptical of this claim.

In any event, the police followed a conspicuous blood trail to his car and found it stuffed with weapons, leading to the search of his apartment in southeast Paris, where more weapons and incriminating evidence on his computer were reportedly found. The Daily Mail reports the items found in his car included “a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Sig-Sauer automatic pistol,” and “stolen police armbands which would enable him to pose as a plain clothes officer.”

“Several members of his entourage and family have since been detained, some of whom sympathize with radical Islam,” sources told AFP.

As for the murder mentioned previously, a dance and fitness enthusiast named Aurelie Chatelain was found shot three times in her car over the weekend, in the same area as the targeted churches. Her body was not discovered by passersby until her laptop overheated, causing smoke to pour from the car.  She was in town for a Pilates training course and seemed happy and carefree in her final social media posts. No motive for her murder has been deduced; her family said she had no enemies and was on good terms with the father of her five-year-old daughter.

While other media sources render the police connection of the alleged frustrated terrorist to the slain woman mysterious, it is quite straightforward, according to AFP: the police found the jihadi’s DNA in Chatelain’s car. They have not, as of yet, announced any theories as to how he got involved with her or why he might have killed her.


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