Ukraine thwarts Euro terror attacks, arrests plotter

Frenchman found with a huge arsenal intended to blow up 15 places — a mosque, synagogue, patrol units, tax collection organisations, during the Euro 2016 tournament

Kiev: Ukraine’s security service said on Monday it had arrested a Frenchman with a huge weapons arsenal who was allegedly planning terror attacks during the Euro 2016 football championship in France.

A video grab shows security officers detaining an unidentified French national at the border with Poland near the Ukrainian frontier town of Yagodyn. Pic/AFP
A video grab shows security officers detaining an unidentified French national at the border with Poland near the Ukrainian frontier town of Yagodyn. Pic/AFP

The announcement came just a day after French President Francois Hollande acknowledged there was a threat of an attack during the June 10-July 10 competition but promised to “do everything to ensure that the Euro 2016 is a success.”

‘Planned’ strikes
Ukraine’s SBU security service chief Vasyl Grytsak said the unidentified Frenchman intended to blow up “a mosque, a synagogue, tax collection organisations, police patrol units and numerous other locations.” He “planned to conduct 15 terrorist strikes,” Grytsak said.

“He obtained five Kalashnikov rifles, more than 5,000 bullets, two anti-tank grenade launchers, 125 kg (275 pounds) of TNT, 100 detonators, 20 balaclavas and other things,” Grytsak said while adding that the arrest was made on May 21 when the man was trying to cross into Poland near the Ukrainian frontier town of Yagodyn.

Alone or no?
It was not immediately clear whether the Frenchman was associated with any particular terror cell or was operating on his own. 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 on alert
France has been on high alert for possible terror strikes in the wake of the jihadist 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 to disclose the information until the competition was over.

The championship kicks off on Friday when France hosts Romania at Stade de France outside Paris. The disclosure came five days after the SBU announced the detention of two Islamic State sympathisers, whom it said were also planning attacks in western Europe. Grytsak said his service became aware in 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.”

'Strike must not trouble football'

French rail unions held make-or-break talks with employers yesterday to try to end a six day strike that threatens to disrupt the Euro 2016 football championship already clouded by security fears. Unions say the offer on the table from state-run rail operator SNCF is “not up to the mark”. The government is trying to reach agreements with unions in various disputes that have dogged France for weeks, before the host nation kicks off Euro 2016 against Romania in Paris on Friday. Around 1.5 million visitors are expected for the one-month championship.

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