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‘Foiled’ Easter Terror Attack Didn’t Actually Exist, Clarifies French Govt

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The French government rapidly walked back a claim its security service had foiled a terrorist attack against a place of worship over Easter weekend, stating no such plot actually existed.

Deputy minister for democratic renewal and spokesman for the French government Prisca Thevenot, newly promoted in Emmanuel Macron’s January reshuffle was giving an update on the work of the council of ministers when she claimed the security services had prevented a terror attack over Easter weekend. Very laudable, except it transpires that never happened, and worse, this came the same day the minister declared a private crusade against what she decried as “fake news”.

Speaking of the 13,500 police officers deployed across France over the Easter weekend protecting 4,350 “establishments of worship” and religious services, Thevenot said: “Thanks to this mobilization, we were able to stop an attempt to take action.

“Because yes, there are attempts to take action and thanks to the mobilization of these men and women on a daily basis, we can avoid tragedies. This action was avoided last weekend.”

France’s Deputy Minister for Democratic Renewal and Government Spokesperson Prisca Thevenot gestures as she addresses a press conference after the weekly cabinet meeting, in Paris on April 3, 2024. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP) (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Yet even before Thevenot’s press conference was over, her own office was walking the statement back, and insisting she had made a mistake. Civil servants briefed French wires agency the AFP that Thevenot had inadvertently implied the arrest of an Egyptian national associated with the Islamic State a month ago was an action taken by police this past weekend.

As reported separately, a 62-year-old Egyptian had been arrested on March 5th and allegedly had plans to attack the Paris Notre Dame cathedral. He has been charged with “criminal terrorist association” and will face a terrorism trial. He is one of five Islamic State-affiliated individuals arrested recently in France.

The spokesman for the spokesman said of her error in this regard: “…during her press briefing, the government spokesperson referred to the comments of the Ministry of the Interior and Overseas Territories of this weekend which announced the arrest of an individual at the beginning of March who wanted to attack places of worship.”

By the end of her press conference on Wednesday, Thevenot was also walking back her own words, stating the nature of the questions she was receiving from journalists at the meeting indicated she had been insufficiently clear. “No attack was foiled this weekend… I did not say that it was an attempted terrorist attack… I was certainly not clear”, she said.

French conservative newspaper Le Figaro stated Thevenot’s comments had “sowed confusion”, an awkward and somewhat ironic position to be in given she launched an attack against what she derided as the “fake news” of others the same day. Speaking to the press, the spokesman took aim at “new fake news that arrived between yesterday evening and this morning” about the government’s tax plans which she said is false.

Mis-speakings about terror plots busted or not, protecting churches and synagogues from terrorist attacks is a major matter in France, which has one of the most developed terrorism problems of the European states. The government says it has foiled 45 attack plots since 2017, but those which avoided detection are instructive about typical targets, with a mass stabbing at a church in 2020, and the attempted beheading of a priest saying mass in 2016.

France increased its national terror alert level to maximum last week in the wake of the Moscow concert hall attack, which resembled in many ways the 2015 Bataclan theatre attack which killed 130 and injured hundreds more. Gunmen in Moscow mowed down concert-goers and set fires, with an Islamic State group claiming responsibility for the massacre on March 22nd. The Kremlin rejects the notion it may have been attacked by Islamists and has moved to shift blame onto the West, including the United States and United Kingdom.



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