Two held in France on suspicion of planning attack during election

Cheryl Sanders
April 19, 2017

Molins said a Daesh flag and propaganda videos had been found at the home of one of the men, while the other was thought to have had links to a Belgian "jihadist cell".

"These two radicalised men. intended to commit in the very short-term - by that I mean in the coming days - an attack on French soil", Interior Minister Matthias Fekl told a news conference. Authorities announced Tuesday that they had arrested two Islamic radicals suspected of plotting a possible attack around the vote.

Macron's campaign team said authorities earlier provided a photo of the suspects to his security detail.

While national security previously has been a strong theme in the campaign, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen hardened her tone on foreign extremists and border controls in the wake of the arrests that came days before the first round of voting.

The two would make it to a run-off on May 7, with Macron seen as the likeliest eventual victor in the second round, but both candidates appeared to be losing steam in the last few days of a tightly-fought campaign ahead of the first April 23 ballot, according to the poll, based on a survey of 11,601 people.

A tip-off from another country had said Merabet was likely to carry out a violent act and was seeking to make contact with Islamic State, either to pledge allegiance to the group or ask it to claim responsibility for the planned attack, Molins said.

It warned main candidates in the ballot of a threat to their security, according to campaign officials.

A man walks past electoral posters displaying the presidential candidates, Benoit Hamon, left, Emmanuel Macron, center, and Marine Le Pen in Paris, France, Monday, April 17, 2017.

France has been under a state of emergency since a terrorist attack killed 130 people in November 2015.

Analysts also say there is growing evidence that a high abstention rate could affect the result, possibly tipping the scales in favor of Fillon.

He said more than 50,000 police, gendarmes and soldiers will be deployed in France and its overseas territories on Sunday and for the decisive second-round vote on May 7.

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