French police arrested two men Sunday suspected of helping to plot a thwarted terrorist attack on a church near Paris in April, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Sunday. The two suspects, ages 35 and 39, were arrested at their homes in Paris' western suburbs.
The two men are suspected of assisting Algerian computer science student Sid Ahmed Ghlam, 24, who plotted to attack a church in Villejuif, south of Paris, and is suspected in the killing of a woman nearby. Aurelie Chatelain, 32, a fitness instructor, was found dead in her car after being shot three times in Villejuif, possibly putting her in the path of would-be terrorist Ghlam, the New York Times reported. (Villejuif translates to Jewish town.)
Investigators have said Ghlam received instructions from someone in Syria before implementing the plot. The person urged the suspect to target a church, according to the prosecutor, the Guardian reported.
Cazeneuve said the suspects' exact role in Ghlam's plot has yet to be determined. "Raids are still under way at the houses of individuals arrested this morning," Cazeneuve said in a statement.
The church attack was foiled when Ghlam was arrested April 26 after shooting himself by accident. When Ghlam called for an ambulance, French authorities discovered weapons, ammunition and evidence of his plans to target churches, CNN reported.
"He [Ghlam] let them believe that he was the victim," French President Francois Hollande said in April. "But police understood that there was an investigation that needed to be initiated."
Authorities found "documents in Arabic mentioning al Qaeda and ISIS" following a search of Ghlam’s home, the prosecutor said. Several military weapons, handguns, ammunition, bulletproof vests and computer and telephone hardware were found in Ghlam’s home and car.
Earlier this year Islamic extremists went on a three-day killing spree in Paris, leaving 17 people dead, beginning with an attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine.