By Andrew Callus and James Regan
Police arrested five Chechens in southern France on suspicion of preparing an attack, a police source said on Tuesday.
The source said four had been arrested in Montpellier or nearby, and a fifth in Beziers. Midi Libre newspaper reported that a cache of explosives was found during police searches.
The case has not been passed onto the anti-terrorist section of the Paris prosecutor’s office, a judicial source said. TV station LCI said organised crime and score settling between Chechen gangs was at the source of the suspects’ plan.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said its diplomats had confirmed to French authorities that five people detained by police were Russian citizens.
France remains on security alert after gunmen stormed the Paris offices of the Charle Hebdo newspaper on Jan. 7 and killed 12 people, in what they said was revenge for cartoons it had published mocking Islam. A further five people were killed during two more days of violence.
Hundreds of thousands of people protested in Russia’s Chechnya region on Monday against what its Kremlin-backed leader called “vulgar and immoral” cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad published by Charlie Hebdo.