KIEV • Ukraine's security service says it has arrested a Frenchman with a huge weapons arsenal who was allegedly planning terror attacks during the Euro 2016 football championship in France.
The announcement yesterday came just a day after French President Francois Hollande acknowledged that there is a threat of an attack during the June 10 to July 10 competition, but promised to "do everything to ensure that the Euro 2016 is a success".
Ukraine's SBU security service chief, Mr Vasyl Grytsak, said the unidentified Frenchman intended to blow up "a Muslim mosque, a Jewish synagogue, tax collection organisations, police patrol units and numerous other locations".
The man planned to conduct 15 terrorist strikes, Mr Grytsak told reporters. "He obtained five Kalashnikov rifles, more than 5,000 bullets, two anti-tank grenade launchers, 125kg of TNT, 100 detonators, 20 balaclavas and other things," the SBU chief said.
Mr Grytsak said the arrest was made on May 21 when the man was trying to cross into Poland near the Ukrainian frontier town of Yagodyn. It is not immediately clear whether the Frenchman was associated with any particular terror cell or was operating on his own.
Mr Grytsak said the suspect expressed negative views about "his government's approach to the immigration of foreigners into France, the spread of Islam and globalisation".
France has been on high alert for possible terrorist strikes in the wake of the attacks in Paris in January and November last year.
The United States has also warned its citizens about the risk of attacks on stadiums, as well as the fan zones where spectators will be gathering in large numbers.
The Ukrainian security chief said he had wanted to avoid stirring panic and not disclose the information until the competition was over. But he added that weekend media leaks about the arrest had forced him to go public. The disclosure came five days after the SBU announced the detention of two Islamic State in Iraq and Syria sympathisers, who it said were also planning attacks in western Europe.
Mr Grytsak said his service became aware last December that a French national had arrived in Ukraine and "began to establish contacts with a number of representatives in the (pro-Russian separatist) east".
Ukraine's eastern war zone has been awash with military weapons and equipment since an insurgency against the pro-Western government in Kiev erupted in April 2014, claiming nearly 9,400 lives.
On Sunday, Mr Hollande said he had decided to maintain the planned fan zones where tens of thousands of spectators without match tickets can gather to watch Euro 2016 games on giant screens. The biggest planned zone is next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Some security officials and commentators have warned that the enclosures and queues of fans waiting to enter them could be targets for potential attackers, stretching the resources of police and security firms in charge of protection.
But Mr Hollande said: "I decided not only that the competition must go ahead, (but also) to keep the fan zones and make this into a European festival, a festival of the people, a sporting festival."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS