Five Russians of Chechen origin have been detained in France on suspicion of planning an attack, the local prosecutor’s office has confirmed. The Russian Foreign Ministry says it has been notified about the arrests.
“Our diplomatic offices in France – the embassy in Paris and general consulate in Marseille – have requested necessary information from French authorities, in a response to which it has been confirmed that the five detained persons are Russian citizens,” the ministry said in a statement on its official website, adding that further details would be provided later.
One of the detained has been identified as Zelimkhan Ismailov, a resident of the French town of Beziers. He was incriminated with “participation in violators’ association with the aim of planning an act of terror,” according to the ministry.
Earlier on Tuesday, prosecutor Yvon Calvet said five Chechens had been held overnight on Monday in Beziers, a town in southern France.
The detained were not on security services lists, the prosecutor said, according to local reports. He also added the case does not have religious implications and that the arrests followed an investigation, started long before terrorist attacks in Paris earlier in January.
The five were initially reported to have been planning an act of terror. However, the French official believes criminal activity seems to be more likely in this case, though nothing is being ruled out.
The suspects’ ages range from 24 to 37, according to BFM TV.