Isis jihadi ordered terror plot suspect to 'hit' France

A teenage radical Islamist suspected of involvement in a terror plot to behead a French soldier has revealed that a member of Isis directed him to "hit" France, according to a prosecutor.

The three young radical Muslims were arrested on suspicion of planning to kidnap and execute a member of the French military at an army base, French authorities said earlier this week.

Four people, aged between 16 and 23, were arrested in separate locations on Monday in preemptive dawn raids for "planning to commit a terrorist act", the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed.

The youngest suspect was released and Cazeneuve confirmed that the eldest suspect, identified only as Djebril, was employed as a signalman by the French navy but was discharged from the military in January 2014 for back problems, AFP news agency reported.

Now, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins has revealed that one of the suspects, a 17-year-old, was ordered to strike France when it was realised that he could not join the group in Syria as he was being monitored by French security services.

Cazeneuve confirmed that the teenager came to the attention of French intelligence in 2014 after monitoring his conversations with French jihadis on social media, where he expressed a desire to travel to Syria. He was subsequently detained in late 2014 for questioning but released because of a lack of evidence.

French police moved to detain the four suspects ahead of France's Bastille Day on 14 July because of the heightened risk of attack, despite their belief that they planned to conduct the attack on the first-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks, in January 2016.

The suspects had allegedly planned to target the Fort Bear military base at Port-Vendres in southwest of France, a training centre for France's special commando forces and the former workplace of the 23-year-old suspect.

"We are facing a terrorist threat that we have never seen before - an external threat and an internal threat," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Thursday.

Richard Barrett, a former British intelligence officer who headed the United Nations Monitoring Team concerning al-Qaeda and the Taliban for nine years and now acts as senior vice president of strategic intelligence firm the Soufan Group, says the challenges facing security services across Europe, to prevent orders being given to potential homegrown terrorists from abroad, are extremely difficult.

"This is not somebody saying 'go to this place and do this', it's much more of an 'attack where you can'," he warns. "That is the general message that has been put out by Islamic State and al-Qaeda before them. You cannot stop that message getting out, all you can do is to see the reaction in time."

"All you can hope is that you have some visibility of some of the networks and some of the people who are well known to be radicalised," he adds. "However, there's a limit to how far surveillance should go. It's not an intrusive society that we live in, it's one that makes a proportionate assessment of the threat and takes action proportionally as a result."

France has been the Western European country worst-hit by the spread of Isis's brutal, ultra-conservative ideology into the minds of foreign jihadists wishing to conduct attacks on their home soil since the rise of the group last year.

In January, an Isis sympathiser killed a number of Jewish hostages at a Kosher supermarket in Paris, just days after two al-Qaeda-linked militants attacked the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing a combined total of 17 people.

Last month, a man beheaded his employer at a gas plant in southeastern France, holding a black Islamist flag. The perpetrator of the attacker left the victim's head with Arabic writing inscribed on it impaled on a security fence. It is believed that Yassin Salhi, a 35-year-old lorry driver, had links to Isis extremists in Syria, according to Molins.