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France arrests 5 in foiled Islamic State attack planned for next week

By Allen Cone
France arrests 5 in foiled Islamic State attack planned for next week
French officers police the grounds surrounding the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. On Thursday, a Paris prosecutor said five suspects were arrested in a foiled terror plot planned in several loations on Dec. 1 in France. File photo by BlackMac/Shutterstock

PARIS, Nov. 25 (UPI) -- Five suspects were arrested in a foiled terror attack in France directed by the Islamic State and planned for next week, a prosecutor said Friday.

Francois Molins said the men detained last weekend were directed remotely by a militant commander in the Iraq-Syria region.

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Molins revealed screengrabs found on the suspects' computers showed a list of potential targets planned for the Dec. 1 attacks.

He didn't give the locations but French media reported they were Paris law courts, the nearby headquarters of the judicial police, the Christmas market on the Champs-Elysees and the Disneyland theme park east of the city.

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The suspected extremists were between 29 and 38 years old, and are of French, Moroccan and Afghan origin. They were arrested in the eastern city of Strasbourg and the southern port of Marseilles overnight on Saturday and Sunday. Molins said police found automatic weapons after the raids in the two cities.

"A Strasbourg commando team, and also a man arrested in Marseille, were given instructions to acquire arms," he said at a news conference. "The instructions were given by a commander from the Iraqi-Syrian region via encrypted apps."

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The group had been under surveillance for several months, the prosecutor said.

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Molins said "new techniques" granted under an antiterror law enacted this summer helped investigators track down the militants.

The new law allows prosecutors to utilize surveillance gear that impersonates a cellphone tower to intercept all communications from nearby mobile phones. Also, prosecutors can request authorization for police to use hacking tools to siphon data, capture keystrokes, and activate microphones and cameras remotely.

The powers came after the Nov. 13, 2015 attacks that killed 130 people in the nation.

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In March, French authorities foiled a terrorist attack in the works by raiding a suspect's home in a Paris suburb.

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