French authorities announced Wednesday that a 24-year-old who planned to massacre churchgoers was thwarted when he accidentally shot himself in the leg.
Police detained the man, a computer science student and Algerian citizen, Sunday morning. According to France 24, police arrived on the scene when he called for treatment for a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But they followed the trail of blood to his car, where they found an “arsenal” of handguns, AK-47s and bulletproof vests.
Besides the weapons, in his car and dormitory room he also had notes on potential targets for an attack and a stolen armband that would have let him impersonate a plainclothes officer, as well as violent Islamist literature and a flag associated with terrorist groups. (RELATED: New French Anti-Jihad Campaign: ‘You Might Be A Terrorist If … ‘)
DNA evidence has also linked the man to Sunday’s murder of a 32-year-old woman in her car in Villejuif, a Paris suburb. Her body was discovered when bystanders noticed smoke in the car from an overheating laptop. The victim, Aurélie Châtelain, was a fitness instructor and a mother to a 5-year-old girl. She had traveled to Paris from her home in northern France for professional training, The New York Times reported.
Authorities said that Châtelain’s death by point-blank gunfire was seemingly random, and unconnected to the suspect’s other criminal intentions.
The suspect, whom the French Interior Ministry did not identify, had been on a government watchlist for at least 2 years. He had reportedly expressed intent to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State terror group.
France’s law enforcement agencies have been on increased alert for terrorist activity since January’s attacks at the office of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, and a kosher supermarket, both in Paris. It is unknown whether the suspect in this week’s arrest had ties to the Kouachi brothers, who attacked the magazine, or supermarket assassin Amedy Coulibaly. Those individuals’ sympathy for violent groups were also known to authorities before they perpetrated the attacks. (RELATED: Terror Widow Flees To Syria As New Paris Jihadi Facts Emerge)
While France’s Jewish community has repeatedly been the target of Islamist terror plots in recent years, this week’s revelation of planned attacks on Christian churches is a new trend for jihadi sympathizers in Europe. But Islamic State militants, and other jihadis, have recently increased their targeting of Christians in the territories they control, including Iraq, Syria, Libya, and sub-Saharan Africa.