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French officials search for church terror plot accomplices

French investigators are searching for accomplices of a suspected jihadi terror plot to attack churches near Paris. The country's prime minister said the plan specifically targeted Christians.

Following a foiled terrorist attack on two Paris churches, French investigators have opened a terrorism investigation, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Wednesday, adding that officials were also searching for potential co-conspirators.

A 24-year-old Algerian computer science student was detained Sunday suspected of planning an attack on two Paris churches, Molins added.

Authorities uncovered a cache of weapons in the suspect's car and home, and detailed plans to attack one of two churches after the accused accidently shot himself and called an ambulance for assistance.

DNA evidence was also present linking him to the murder at the weekend of 32-year-old Aurelie Chatelain who was found shot dead in her car near Paris, the prosecutor said.

Four Kalashnikovs, a handgun, ammunition, bulletproof vests, communications equipment and 2,0000 euros ($2,145) in cash were found by police, Molins said, adding that the man had multiple papers in Arabic which made reference to Islamic State militant group and al Qaeda, as well as a handwritten attack plan.

The suspect, Molins added, had also been in contact with someone - possibly in Syria - who instructed him to target a church.

Molins is seeking to have the suspect kept in custody for up to six days.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the documents found in the suspects possession, "established unambiguously that the individual was planning an imminent attack, probably against one or two churches."

The suspect, who was admitted to a Paris hospital after his arrest, was known to security officials, Cazeneuve said, due to indications on social media he was planning a trip to Syria to flight alongside jihadists.

Cazeneuve added that two background checks were made of the 24-year-old in 2014 and 2015 but neither revealed enough evidence to launch a judicial investigation.

During a visit with Cazeneuve to the two churches in the Paris suburb of Villejuif that were allegedly targets for the attack, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said "it was the Christians, the Catholics of France who were targeted."

"Our country, like others, has faced in recent weeks a terrorist threat unprecedented in its nature and scope," Valls added.

jlw/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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