French police thwart attack days before election

19 April, 2017, 10:52 | Author: Essie Rivera

Two French men were arrested in Marseille on Tuesday morning for allegedly planning a terror attack in France just a few days before the presidential election, Interior Minister Matthias Fekl announced on Tuesday.

Mahiedine Merabet, 29, and Clement Baur, 23, both French, were detained under arrest warrants for terrorist criminal association, according to a police document obtained by the Associated Press.

"These two radicalized men. intended to commit in the very short-term - by that I mean in the coming days - an attack on French soil", Fekl told a news conference.

The news comes as the people of France prepare to cast their votes on Sunday in the first stage of a two-part election.

More than 230 people have died in Islamist militant attacks in the country over the past two years.

After weeks of twists and turns, the unpredictable race has narrowed dramatically, with surveys suggesting four candidates are in contention to win one of the top two spots in the vote next Sunday and progress to the run-off a fortnight later.

Macron and Le Pen, who have both scored as high as 25 percent in voter surveys, stood at 23 percent and 22.5 percent respectively in the latest Ifop poll updated daily, while Melenchon has surged to 19.5 percent, equal with Fillon.

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Anti-European Union, anti-immigration candidate Marine Le Pen has sought to cast herself as the best defender of France against fresh attacks.

Polls show that more than a quarter of voters have yet to decide who they will support.

"We opened the door of the house of France to the mafia, to terrorists who quickly understood the benefits they could get from our incredible powerlessness and send their soldiers of hate among the migrant flows to hit our country in the heart", she said.

"The behaviour of people who are now planning not to vote is a major factor".

But he told supporters Tuesday - appearing simultaneously in seven towns by hologram, one of this campaign's most innovative gimmicks - he did not want France to follow Britain out of the bloc. Fillon, a 63-year-old former prime minister, has been charged over allegations he gave his wife Penelope a fictional job as his parliamentary assistant for which she earned almost 680,000 euros ($725,000) in public money.

The French domestic intelligence service, DGSI had suspect the pair were plotting a terror attack timed with the French elections.

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