France Terror Arrest: How the Alleged Paris Plot Was Thwarted

A 24-year-old was arrested after he called the authorities himself.

ByABC News
April 22, 2015, 10:30 AM

— -- Details are starting to emerge about a terror attack that was thwarted in Paris this weekend that involved an arsenal of weapons, an apparently random shooting and a list of potential religious targets, officials say.

French officials first reported the plot today, days after the suspect was apprehended, but the investigation remains ongoing.

Who Is the Suspect?

The male suspect has been publicly identified as a 24-year-old Algerian who moved to France in 2009, prosecutors said. His name has not been released by authorities.

Prosecutors said the man was already being watched because he had expressed interest in traveling to Syria, but intelligence had not yet found grounds to put him under strict surveillance. But today, prosecutors said the man had been in contact with someone in Syria who directed him to attack a Paris church.

How the Day Unfolded: His Alleged 1st Attack

Police believe that the suspect was involved in the murder of a woman he had never met on Sunday.

The woman has been identified as Aurelie Chatelain, a 32-year-old French national who was in Paris for a work training session.

French media is reporting that a call was made to police Sunday morning that a car was on fire, with emergency responders only discovering later that Chatelain’s body was inside.

Officials believe she was shot in her car. Police were later able to connect her to the suspect using ballistics data, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said.

How the Police Found Him: Sunday, April 19, 8:50 a.m.

The suspect directly contacted authorities at some point Sunday afternoon because he needed an ambulance after allegedly shooting himself accidentally, officials said.

When authorities responded, they found individual lying on the sidewalk in front of his residence, with an injury to his knee and an injury to his thigh, French prosecutors said. Medics and police also found a trail of blood leading to his car. Inside the vehicle, investigators found guns, a bulletproof vest, a laptop computer, a USB key and notes on potential targets.

An ensuing search of his apartment revealed more weapons and unspecified evidence linking him to religious extremism, officials said.

"Documents were also found and they prove, without any ambiguity, that the individual was preparing an imminent attack, in all probability, against one or two churches," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

The specific names of the churches have not been released, though more details about the case are expected today.

What Happens Now

French officials have placed Paris on its highest security alert since the Charlie Hebdo magazine murders and the attack on a kosher market in January.

The suspect has been treated for his wounds in a nearby hospital but is not speaking with authorities, prosecutors said.