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France Says Foils 'Imminent Attack' Ahead Of Presidential Vote

  • RFE/RL

French soldiers, policemen and firefighter vehicles are seen during an antiterror operation in Marseille on April 18.

France says it arrested two men suspected of planning an "imminent and violent attack" ahead of the country's presidential election.

Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said on April 18 that a cache of weapons and explosives were found at an apartment in in the southern port city of Marseille linked to the suspects, along with an Islamic State flag and extremist literature.

Earlier on April 18, Interior Minister Matthias Fekl had said the two “radicalized men, born in 1987 and 1993, of French nationality,” were arrested in Marseille.

The pair, who were known to French intelligence services, "intended to commit in the very short-term -- by that I mean in the coming days -- an attack on French soil," Fekl told a news conference, adding security surrounding the election and the candidates had been strengthened.

Molins said one suspect had links to a Belgian Jihadist cell, while the other planned to pledge allegiance to IS.

President Francois Hollande called the arrests a "remarkable haul."

The first round of the election will be held on April 23, with 11 candidates on the ballot. The two candidates who win the most votes will advance to the May 7 runoff.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron are leading in opinion polls, but conservative candidate Francois Fillon and Jean-Luc Melenchon of the far-left also have a chance of reaching the runoff.

As many as a third of voters remain undecided.

National security is a major campaign issue in France, where attacks by militant Islamists have killed more than 230 people in the past two years.

The country is still under a state of emergency, and Fekl said more than 50,000 police, gendarmes, and soldiers would be deployed for each round of the election.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

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