French authorities on Wednesday charged the primary suspect in a foiled Paris attack plot with membership in a terrorist organization, following a search of his home that uncovered an arsenal of weapons and explosives.
The charges were filed as investigators sought to break up a network of extremists linked to the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) terror group. IS claimed responsibility both for last week's attacks in Brussels that killed 32 people, as well as the November attacks in Paris that killed 130.
French national Reda Kriket, 34, was apprehended near Paris last week, with police uncovering a cache of assault rifiles, handguns and a highly volatile homemade explosive called TATP at his apartment.
State prosecutor Francois Molins said Wednesday that "no specific target" had been chosen for the foiled attack, but that the weapons cache was evidence that an imminent act of "extreme violence" had likely just been prevented.
Molins did not say whether Kriket's alleged plot was linked to the IS network behind last week's attacks in Brussels and last November's attacks in Paris.
An additional French suspect, 32-year-old Anis Bahri was arrested in Rotterdam in the Netherlands on Sunday in connection with the foiled Paris plot. Authorities are planning to extradite him to France.
Kriket and Bahri had allegedly traveled to Syria in late 2014 or early 2015 before returning to Europe, spending time in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Two other suspects in the foiled Paris plot, Abderrahmane Ameroud, 38, and Rabah M., 34 have already been charged in Belgium and will be held for another week, the Belgian federal prosecutor said.
In the wake of the Brussels and Paris attacks, authorities are uncovering extensive links between French and Belgian IS cells.
Before the Paris attacks, Kriket and the suspected Paris attacks ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud were convicted in absentia in the July 2015 trial of Khaled Zerkani, who Belgium's federal prosecutor described as "the most significant recruiter of jihadi candidates in Belgium."
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande decided Wednesday to abandon proposed legislation that would have revoked citizenship for convicted terrorists and strengthened an ongoing state of emergency.
France declared the state of emergency on the night of the Paris attacks, and recently extended it to May 26. It enhances some police powers of search and arrest and limits public gatherings, among other changes.
bw/jr (AP, AFP)