France terror suspect claims he thwarted church attack

PARIS - An Algerian man accused of murdering a woman and planning an attack on a church on the southern edge of Paris claimed in court on Friday he had actually foiled the terror plot, his lawyers said.

"He admitted he was in Villejuif on April 19, 2015, with another individual. However, he denies responsibility for the death of Aurelie Chatelain and also affirms he thwarted an attack on that day," his lawyers told AFP, without specifying who the other individual they referred to was.

Sid Ahmed Ghlam, 24, was taken into custody on April 19 after he accidentally shot himself in the leg, a fluke occurrence that led police to uncovering an alleged plot against a church in the Villejuif suburb.

Ghlam's hearing was his first before an investigating judge since his arrest, the lawyers said.

In April, police said they found an arsenal of weapons, tactical gear and cellphones in Ghlam's car and student flat, but the suspect has consistently denied all the accusations he faces.

Investigators say they uncovered detailed plans to attack churches and linked Ghlam's DNA to the murder of Chatelain, a young mother who was found shot dead in the passenger seat of her car.

Security sources said the killing may have resulted from an attempt to steal the 32-year-old victim's car.

Paris prosecutors say they found documents at his residence about Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, and that he had been in touch with a possible jihadist in Syria to ask him how to attack a church.

With the country a prime target of the IS, which has singled France out in several videos, fears are running high that those who return radicalised from Syria or Iraq may carry out attacks in Europe.

Suspected of helping Ghlam with logistics, three other men are also currently under investigation. They say they had no knowledge of a terror plot.

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