File photo: Gunmen gesture as they return to their car after the attack outside the offices of French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, January 7, 2015. Photo by Reuters
Three suspects arrested this week in a plot to attack a French military base had planned to decapitate an officer and film the scene, a judicial official said Thursday.
The hilltop Fort Bear, overlooking the Mediterranean, which is used for training by commandos, was the target location, said the official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
The arrests, announced on Wednesday by Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, injected a new dose of tension into a nation already on edge over terror threats.
In late June, a man with suspected ties to Islamist extremists beheaded his boss at a transport company and hung the head on a factory gate.
"We note the power of the threat, a threat level (France) has never before known," said Prime Minister Manuel Valls. "The threat is outside, the threat is inside."
Thousands of French police and soldiers have been combing streets and guarding sensitive sites — houses of worship to tourist landmarks — since January attacks by three Islamist extremists on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher grocery that killed 20, including the three attackers.
The three in the latest case were arrested on Monday along with a 16-year-old who was released on Wednesday and is no longer a suspect, the official said. A 17-year-old was the alleged instigator. The eldest, 23, was a former Marine dropped from the corps, Cazeneuve said without elaborating.
The judicial official said the plot centered on an attack on Fort Bear with plans to decapitate an officer and film the scene, mimicking the grisly killings of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, a scenario confirmed during interrogation.
They were arrested Monday in three locations around France, in Marseille, in the northern Nord region, and in Chesnay west of Paris.