French authorities arrested two suspects Tuesday for planning a terrorist attack ahead of the country’s upcoming presidential election.
The two individuals, age 23 and 29, were known radicals, according to Interior Minister Matthias Fekl. They were “suspected of wanting to commit in an imminent way a violent action on the eve of the French presidential election,” Fekl told reporters during a press conference.
Authorities found 6.6 pounds of explosives, firearms and an Islamic State flag in the probe, according to a French prosecutor. The suspects’ target was not divulged.
French citizens head to the polls April 23 to vote in what is expected to be a tightly contested election. A run-off will be held in May if no candidate wins a majority.
The French government is drastically increasing security for the election, including the deployment of 50,000 police and military personnel.
Security officials uncovered the plot as part of an investigation into arms trafficking to criminal groups. The French secret service discovered a photo of some of the weapons last week in addition to a video in which the two suspects pledged their allegiance to ISIS.
ISIS has suffered significant losses in Iraq and Syria over the last year, but it continues to engage in successful attacks abroad, particularly in Europe. The terrorist group is known to operate cells across France, Belgium and other countries. It is unclear whether the ISIS agents recruited the two suspects or if they were radicalized through other means.
They are believed to have met while serving time in prison. Jihadist organizations are known to frequently radicalize and recruit incarcerated criminals.
France has been under a state of emergency since a terrorist attack killed 130 people in November 2015. The country has suffered several terrorist attacks since.
French President Francois Hollande congratulated the secret service on the arrests Tuesday.
“Our secret service and police have worked remarkably well to stop two people who are now going to be confronted with judges and policemen so that we know exactly what their intentions are,” he said.
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