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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Two prisoners hit with French terrorism charges over plot

The men discussed the would-be plot, which included possibly taking hostages or machine-gunning victims, while they were serving time in Fresnes prison south of Paris

The Eiffel Tower is pictured in Paris before switching off lights on October 2, 2017 in tribute to the victims of the attacks in Las Vegas and Marseille. Ludovic Marin / AFP
The Eiffel Tower is pictured in Paris before switching off lights on October 2, 2017 in tribute to the victims of the attacks in Las Vegas and Marseille. Ludovic Marin / AFP

Prosecutors have filed terrorism charges against two men believed to have been planning an attack after their imminent release from prison, sources said on Monday.

The men discussed the would-be plot, which included hostage-taking or machine-gun attacks, while they were serving time in Fresnes prison, south of Paris.

"These two radical Islamists wanted to set up a group of fighters with the aim of … various actions outside prison," said one of the sources.

One of the suspects is a 28-year-old Cameroonian described by authorities as an ISIL sympathiser, while the other is a 22-year-old Frenchman.

Both were behind bars for non-terrorist offences and were suspected of being radicalised while in prison. They were charged on Friday with being part of a terrorist conspiracy.

The Cameroonian was also believed to have been in contact with a person in Iraq or Syria, where ISIL is under pressure from a US-led coalition.

Meanwhile, Italian police said on Monday that a brother of Ahmed Hanachi, the Tunisian who stabbed two young women to death in the French city of Marseille this month, served as a jihadist fighter in Syria.

Anis Hanachi was arrested on Saturday night in Ferrara, Italy, after French authorities issued an international arrest warrant.

French investigators, who suspect Hanachi of complicity in his brother's attack, indicated that he had "fought, waged jihad in Syrian-Iraqi territory, with military experience", Lamberto Giannini, head of Italy's counterterrorism team, said.

"A hypothesis that remains to be verified is that it was him who indoctrinated his brother Ahmed and caused his radicalisation," Mr Giannini said.

Ahmed Hanachi, 29, attacked the two women at Marseille's Saint-Charles train station on October 1 before being shot and killed by troops.

France has been under a state of emergency since the ISIL gun and bomb attacks in Paris in November 2015 — part of a string of jihadist assaults that has left more than 240 people dead over the past two years.