French counterterrorism police arrested on Wednesday a 15-year old boy suspected of planning an attack and using encrypted social media channels to communicate with a French Islamist militant believed to be in Syria or Iraq, sources said.
The arrest came following two recent thwarted attacks on French soil.
In an operation led by France’s domestic intelligence agency, police swooped on the teenager in Paris’ eastern 20th arrondissement.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed the operation. “We’re working with extreme intensity to identify those we think are likely to carry out an attack,” he told reporters, adding that ISIS was recruiting “younger and younger individuals”.
A source inside the prosecutor’s office said that the unnamed boy has links to jihadi Rachid Kassim, who officials say is a French ISIS member tied to at least four plots to attack France since June. The official wouldn’t comment on the links between the teen suspect and Kassim.
It is the second time a 15-year-old minor suspected of plotting to kill in the name of ISIS has been arrested in five days. The source said that both youngsters had used Telegram to communicate with Kassim. Kassim’s precise role is under investigation.
Their arrests follow the detention of three women, including a 19-year-old, who had allegedly wanted to attack a Paris railway station using a car laden with gas cylinders.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that Wednesday’s arrest of the boy was part of French authorities’ efforts to target people vulnerable to “calls to carry out killings, led by a certain number of actors in Syria.” But he didn’t elaborate on any direct links between the boy and the ISIS group.
The extremist group “uses encrypted means to encourage increasingly young” individuals, he said, citing the messaging application Telegram.
France is currently in “an exceptional level of mobilization” following two failed attacks in six days, he added.
France is reeling from a wave of militant attacks on its territory that have killed more than 230 people since January, 2015, and its intelligence services are struggling to dismantle a web of militant networks inside the country.