French police arrest man over plot to attack Olympics

 Geoffroy-Guichard stadium
[Getty Images]

A man has been arrested in southern France over a plan to attack a football stadium which will be used during this summer's Olympic Games, officials say.

The 18-year-old of Chechen origin was apprehended in Saint-Etienne on 22 May after authorities found evidence of an Islamist-inspired attack, officials say.

Interior Minister Gérard Darmanin praised the intelligence services for successfully foiling the first plot targeting the Games.

France is on high alert in the run-up to the Olympics, which start on 26 July.

Authorities have not named the man arrested last week.

According French media, he was caught after exchanging encrypted messages with known Islamists. Photographs and videos of the stadium were allegedly found on his phone and computer, too.

Mr Darmanin said the suspect wanted to attack spectators and security forces at the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium, the city's main stadium, where a number of football games are set to take place.

He was "inspired by the Islamist" ideology, he added.

The Paris committee organising the Olympics praised French authorities on their "efficiency".

"We applaud the efficiency of the services and their exceptional mobilisation to ensure the security of the Games," the committee said in a statement sent to AFP news agency.

The French government is using about 20,000 soldiers and more than 40,000 police officers to provide security for the Games. It will also have support from about 2,000 troops and police officers from other countries.

Security services have been screening one million people involved in the Games, including athletes, residents living close to the Olympic venues, medical staff and volunteers.

France has seen several Islamist attacks over recent years.

In 2020, secondary teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded outside the school he taught at in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, after showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during class.

His killer, 18-year-old Chechen Abdoullakh Anzorov, was shot dead by police at the scene.