PARIS • French security forces believe they have prevented a terror attack being plotted by two inmates, casting a new spotlight on the problem of radicalisation in the country's prisons.
Sources close to the investigation said on Monday that the men were accused of discussing a potential hostage-taking or machine-gun attack from their cell at the Fresnes prison south of Paris.
One of the suspects is a 28-year-old from Cameroon described by the authorities as a sympathiser of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, while the other is a 22-year-old Frenchman.
The Cameroonian was believed to have been in contact with a person in Iraq or Syria, where ISIS' self-proclaimed "caliphate" has lost swathes of territory.
The two had been considering different potential targets, such as police or prison guards, a source said on condition of anonymity.
Both were behind bars for non-terror offences and are suspected of having been radicalised while serving their sentences. They were charged last Friday with being part of a terrorist conspiracy.
The Cameroonian, who was due to be released yesterday, confirmed to investigators that he was planning on carrying out an attack.
The Frenchman was due to be released next week.
They were arrested after a 44-year-old man from the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, who was in contact with them, indicated that he was "planning on heading to the mainland to offer them logistical support".
Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet yesterday said France urgently needed to stop prisoners from being radicalised. "What was revealed (on Monday) is testament to the urgency of the situation," she told Europe 1 radio.
In August, a radicalised prisoner attacked two guards at the Osny prison north of the capital in what was seen as France's first terror assault within a jail.