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Prosecutor: French terror cell planned Syria trip

Associated Press Modified: October 11, 2012 at 8:30 am •  Published: October 11, 2012

French authorities opened a judicial investigation Thursday over the Sarcelles grocery attack for attempted murder, notably on the basis of the potential victims' religion and in connection with a terrorist organization, the prosecutor said. Related potential charges included the illegal possession of explosive devices, theft, use of stolen property, and illegal possession and transport of firearms.

It's now up to investigating judges whether to file preliminary charges.

The case involves two components: The kosher grocery attack, and the recruitment network. The prosecutor wants seven charged in connection with the alleged network, and six of them in the grocery attack.

Two suspects "had the mission of recruiting and sending individuals to carry out jihad in some countries — notably Syria," Molins said. Two members of the cell had recently spent three months each in Tunisia and Egypt, though police interrogations haven't turned up why they were there, he said.

DNA traces found on the grenade led anti-terror police to Jeremie Louis-Sidney, a 33-year-old convicted drug dealer who, Molins said, converted to radical Islam in prison. Louis-Sidney was killed in a shootout with police on Saturday.

The only other suspect identified by name was Jeremy Bailly, who — instead of Louis-Sidney, as first thought — appeared to be the group's ringleader, Molins said. Bailly had rented the garage where the explosives were found, and investigators found a key to it in his home.

Police investigators turned up five wills that contained "religious recommendations that consisted of saying, 'the day that I won't be here ... respect your Muslim duty, give my iPod to my sister, such-and-such item to my brother-in-law,' etc.," Molins said.

Molins said it was "too early to tell" whether the suspects had contacts with known Islamic militant groups abroad.

French investigators believed they headed off a potentially deadly terror attack, though it was unclear what the target might be. Bailly told investigators that "he wanted indeed to build a bomb, but without naming either his accomplices or his target," according to Molins.

The international link revived memories of the height of the Iraq war in the mid-2000s — when French counterterrorism authorities dismantled a string of feeder cells that sent or plotted to send fighters to join the combat against U.S.-led allied forces there.

A French counterterrorism official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that authorities have noticed a recent trend in which young French militants have been lured by the prospect of jihad in Syria.