Thirteen people were arrested in June and July after an undercover police operation targeted the Operational Forces Action group (OFA), a small vigilante group dedicated to fighting the “Islamic peril”, according to media reports.
Four of those held were reportedly linked to victims or those caught up in the coordinated series of terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 that left 137 people dead. Other suspects were from middle-class backgrounds, or had police and military backgrounds, according to the transcripts secured by Le Monde and published this week.
The AFO – a small and little-known group - planned to respond to further extremist attacks in France by retaliating at a number of locations, according to a document recovered from the home of one of the suspects.
Plans included using a syringe to poison halal food in Muslim-populated areas, targeting imams identified by group members as fundamentalists and attacking mosques and bookshops with homemade grenades.
The suspects claimed the plans were ideas that were never going to be carried out, according to Le Monde. Members of the group were said, however, to have reconnoitred Paris supermarkets and were planning to test poisons on animals in August. One suspect was accused of buying material to turn into homemade explosives.
The group, which had more than 100 members, was allegedly led by a 64-year-old former police officer and they used code names from historical French figures. The ex-officer was known as Richelieu, after a 17th century cardinal.
The arrests were carried out across France, including the island of Corsica and within the Paris suburbs. Those arrested, aged between 32 and 69, included women. Four people remain in custody.
One member of the AFO, a 62-year-old mathematician code-named Fermat claimed the group was not fundamentalist and did not advocate violence.
Source: The National