Police in southern France have arrested four women and a girl in an anti-terror swoop after an investigation had revealed a suspected plot to attack a church in the city of Montpellier.
A police official in the Herault region confirmed the Saturday arrests in the city of Beziers.
Several French news outlets reported earlier that authorities had learned a woman – who has not been publicly identified – was planning a terrorist attack on a church in Montpellier during the Easter holidays.
She was said to have been radicalised by watching videos from the Islamic State (IS).
The woman was apprehended in a housing project in Beziers, and taken into custody along with her mother and three sisters, one of whom is a minor.
During a search of the women’s home, police reportedly found a sword and chemicals that could be used for explosives. At the same time, Le Point magazine cited a source which said the chemicals may have been bought for household use.
Beziers Mayor Robert Menard told Le Figaro newspaper that the 18-year-old had “boasted” to neighbours about watching IS videos.
He told The Associated Press he spoke with neighbours at the scene, saying, “They’re horrified. They fear it gives a bad image of this neighbourhood, and the Muslim community here.”
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed the operation in a tweet, thanking counter-terrorism agents for their work.
A probe has been launched into whether the woman had ties to terrorist groups.
Menard told reporters that the detained family were “Islamists”. He added that the city neighbourhood the family live in is “a difficult district affected by massive immigration”.