French intelligence agents have detained four people, including a former navy service member, on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack against “military installations,” the country’s interior minister said.
The suspects, aged between 16 and 23, were arrested in four different parts of France at dawn on Monday and remain in custody, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement Wednesday.
One of them is a former sailor in the French navy, he said.
Investigators identified the “main instigator” in the alleged plot through his “activism on social networks and relations with French jihadists currently in prison,” according to Cazeneuve.
The main suspect, who had previously been questioned by authorities, had a desire to travel to Syria, the minister said.
An investigation opened last month by the Paris prosecutor’s office, which handles counterterrorism cases throughout France, enabled authorities to identify other individuals connected to the main suspect, Cazeneuve said.
The investigation into the alleged plot is ongoing.
No link to blasts at petrochemical plant
No link has been made at this point between the people detained and explosions this week at a petrochemical plant in southern France, Cazeneuve said.
Authorities are still investigating the simultaneous blasts that hit two tanks containing chemicals early Tuesday, setting off huge fires at the plant in Berre-l’Etang, northwest of Marseille, according to CNN affiliate BFMTV.
Environment Minister Segolene Royal told BFMTV on Thursday that terrorism wasn’t the main lead in the investigation into the fires.
Since the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris in January, French officials have repeatedly warned of a continuing threat.
“Every week, we stop, we prevent, we avert terrorist acts,” President Francois Hollande said this week during ceremonies to mark Bastille Day.
Cazeneuve said Wednesday that 1,850 French citizens or people who usually reside in France are implicated in jihadist networks, including close to 500 individuals currently in Syria or Iraq.