French authorities have charged 10 suspected far-right extremists in connection with an alleged plot to attack Muslims, a judicial source said Thursday.
The nine men and one woman, who ranged in age from 32 to 69, were arrested in raids across France on Saturday. They appeared before a judge on Wednesday evening and were charged with “criminal terrorist conspiracy,” the source said.
Several were also charged with violations of firearms laws and the manufacture or possession of explosive devices.
Police have linked the 10 to a little-known group called Action des Forces Operationnelles (Operational Forces Action), which urges French people to combat Muslims, or what it calls “the enemy within.”
The suspects had an “ill-defined plan to commit a violent act targeting people of the Muslim faith”, a source close to the investigation told AFP on Monday.
Rifles, handguns and homemade grenades were found during the raids in the Paris area, the Mediterranean island of Corsica and the western Charentes-Maritimes region.
Firearms, ammunition seized
Prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday that 36 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition were seized, as well as items in one suspect’s home that could be used in the manufacture of a type of organic peroxide explosive.
The suspects include a retired police officer, identified only as Guy S., who was the alleged leader of the group, according to a source close to the investigation. The group also includes a former soldier.
France remains on high alert following a wave of jihadist attacks that have killed more than 240 people since 2015.
Officials have urged people not to confuse the actions of radicalized individuals with those of France’s estimated 6 million Muslims, but anti-Islamic violence is on the rise.
The Guerre de France (War for France) website of the shadowy Operational Forces Action depicts an apocalyptic battle scene under the Eiffel Tower, and claims to prepare “French citizen-soldiers for combat on national territory.”
France’s TF1 television has said the group planned to target radicalized imams and Islamist prisoners after their release from jail, as well as veiled women in the street chosen at random.
France registered 72 violent anti-Muslim acts last year, up from 67 in 2016.