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French police arrest suspect accused of planning church attacks

The suspect is connected to the death of a 32-year-old Frenchwoman.

By Andrew V. Pestano
A French army police officer patrols the Eiffel Tower in Paris. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/81970f5c2e4c4d5cc86c63856780c39a/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A French army police officer patrols the Eiffel Tower in Paris. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

PARIS, April 22 (UPI) -- Police in France arrested a suspect in possession of an "arsenal" of weapons Wednesday, preventing a terrorist attack targeting at least one church, announced Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

A 24-year-old Algerian computer science student, previously known to security forces as an alleged Islamist extremist, was arrested Sunday in Paris. Police said he planned to attack "one or two" churches, according to Cazeneuve.

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Police "discovered an arsenal in his car and at his home composed of several military weapons," Cazeneuve said. Police seized combat weapons, handguns, ammunition, bulletproof vests, computers, documents and phones.

The suspect is connected to the death of Aurelie Chatelain, 32, who was found shot dead in her car on Sunday -- apparently at random.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls confirmed the suspect was in custody in a weekly cabinet meeting.

"We have in this country, like in other countries, an unprecedented terrorist threat, unprecedented by its nature and scope," Valls said. The suspect was under investigation for possible travel to Syria.

French authorities have strongly mobilized efforts against threats to national security since the January attacks in Paris, where 17 people were killed gunmen attacked the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket.

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