Frenchman in an 'advanced stage' of plotting attack arrested

A Frenchman in the "advanced stages" of a plot to attack the country was arrested Thursday northwest of Paris and security forces locked down the area during a major search, France's interior minister said.

No links at this stage between plot and prior attacks on Brussels and Paris

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said there were no links 'at this stage' between a planned attack on France and prior attacks on Paris and Brussels. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press)

A French national suspected of belonging to a militant network planning an attack in France was arrested on Thursday morning, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

The arrest helped "foil a plot in France that was at an advanced stage," Cazeneuve said on Thursday night in a televised address from his ministry.

"The individual questioned, a French national, is suspected of high-level involvement in this plan. He was part of a terrorist network that planned to strike France," Cazeneuve said.

Following the arrest by the French counterterrorism service, DGSI, the agency carried out a raid on Thursday night at an apartment building in Argenteuil, a suburb in northern Paris, he said.

Witnesses told The Associated Press that the immediate area had been locked down, and residents were unable to return home for hours after the raid began.

A 23-year-old resident of the neighbourhood described seeing heavily masked and armed officers surround the entrance to an apartment building before entering and emerging with the suspect, his head covered in a scarf.

"Police told us to get out of the way, it's dangerous," the resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the tense situation in the neighbourhood.

"We are all shocked," he said. "We're asking us how this could have happened."

"At this stage, there is no tangible evidence that links this plot to the attacks in Paris and Brussels," said Cazeneuve, who was in the Belgian capital earlier on Thursday.

French radio station France Info reported that the man had been sentenced in Belgium for belonging to a jihadist network. French TV station ITele reported that explosives had been found in the man's house.

The arrest came two days after suicide bombers hit the Brussels airport and a metro train, killing at least 31 people and wounding some 270 in the worst such attack in Belgian history.

In November, 130 people were killed in Paris in coordinated attacks on cafes, a sports stadium and a concert hall. The ISIS militant group has claimed responsibility for both the Paris and Brussels attacks.

With files from The Associated Press

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