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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Man jailed over plot to attack French naval base

Hakim Marnissi, 27, was convicted of criminal conspiracy with terrorist intent following his arrest in 2015

French president Emmanuel Macron attends a drone presentation on the deck of the French war ship Dixmude docked in the French Navy base of Toulon, southern France. Claude Paris / Reuters
French president Emmanuel Macron attends a drone presentation on the deck of the French war ship Dixmude docked in the French Navy base of Toulon, southern France. Claude Paris / Reuters

A Paris court on Monday sentenced a young Frenchman to 10 years in jail for plotting to attack military personnel at a major naval base.

Hakim Marnissi, 27, was convicted of criminal conspiracy with terrorist intent following his arrest in 2015 after he received parcels containing a knife and balaclavas.

The judges considered there was sufficient evidence to characterise his actions as a "plan to commit an attack" against the Mediterranean naval base in Toulon by attacking sailors "with a knife" and "die as a martyr".

After a breakup and a period of unemployment, Marnissi, who worked in fashion, had started to isolate himself, telling the court he spent his days on the computer.

In 2013, he started to attend a mosque where he met Mustafa Mokeddem, who had spent several months in prison for making violent threats against Charlie Hebdo and had bought knives to "butcher" its cartoonists.

Read more: Man charged in France for planning terror attack

On January 7, 2015, the satirical magazine was the target of an attack that left 11 dead.

In contact with Mokeddem, Marnissi was swiftly radicalised.

In 2014, Mokeddem had spoken with him about the creation of an "Islamic state" and convinced him to leave France.

Marnissi tried unsuccessfully twice to travel to Syria, where Mokeddem settled in late 2014.

Marnissi by now had attracted the attention of the intelligence agencies and was barred from leaving France.

In October 2015, he was detained after receiving two parcels, one containing balaclavas and the other a knife with a 10-centimetre blade.

While in custody he said that after failing to make it to Syria, Mokeddem prompted him to take action in France, against the Toulon base, which is home to 70 per cent of the French fleet and 20,000 military and civilian personnel.

He went back on those remarks Monday, claiming to have been "trapped by the police" while in custody.

"There was no plan to act," he said.

Mokeddem had mentioned an attack on the base "in the tone of a joke," he said.