Two suspected radicals allegedly preparing "imminent" attack arrested in France

Two Frenchmen arrested in Marseille on Tuesday planned to carry out an "imminent and violent attack" before the first round of the presidential election on Sunday, France's interior minister said.

Two suspects, aged 23 and 29 were detained in Marseille, although the men are said to be from Ermont, north of Paris and Croix, near the Belgian border.

The men, born in 1993 and 1987, of French nationality, had the intention of committing an attack on French soil within the next few days, he said. "The security forces are mobilized everywhere across France to ensure the security of French people and to ensure the presidential campaign goes smoothly", he said. The explosives found are of a type used in previous attacks in France and Belgium that were inspired by the Islamic State group.

Photos of the two suspects were distributed last week to the security teams for Le Pen and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.

A definite attack had been headed off, he said.

"The fact that the two individuals were arrested in Marseille as Marine Le Pen was preparing to hold a meeting the following day is perhaps not a coincidence", a member of her entourage said.

Separately, sources in the camp of conservative Francois Fillon said they had been warned there was a security risk for the right-wing candidate.

Fekl gave no details about potential targets or motives.

The presidential election is being watched as a bellwether for global populist sentiment, in large part because of Le Pen's nationalist, anti-immigration positions.

After weeks of twists and turns, the unpredictable race has narrowed dramatically, with surveys suggesting four candidates are in contention to win one of the top two spots in the vote next Sunday and progress to the run-off a fortnight later.

On Monday, she told the rally that recent immigration of largely Middle Eastern and North African migrants is a "tragedy for France", adding "I would decide on a moratorium on all legal immigration to stop this frenzy, this uncontrolled situation that is dragging us down".

Le Pen wants to pull France out of the eurozone and also foresees a mass renegotiation of EU treaties, sparking fears that a far-right victory, hot on the heels of Brexit, could be fatal for the European bloc. "We need Europe, so we will remake it", Macron told the crowd.

  • Larry Hoffman