KIEV, Ukraine, June 6 – Ukraine’s security service said 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.
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.”
Ukraine’s SBU security service chief Vasyl Grytsak said the unidentified Frenchman intended to blow up “a Muslim mosque, a Jewish synagogue, tax collection organisations, police patrol units and numerous other locations.”
He “planned to conduct 15 terrorist strikes,” Grytsak told reporters. “He obtained five Kalashnikov rifles, more than 5,000 bullets, two anti-tank grenade launchers, 125 kilogrammes (275 pounds) of TNT, 100 detonators, 20 balaclavas and other things.”
Grytsak said the arrest was made on May 21 when the man was trying to cross into Poland near the Ukrainian frontier town of Yagodyn.
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 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.
But Grytsak added that weekend media leaks about the arrest had forced him to go public.
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.”
Ukraine’s eastern war zone has been awash with arms since an insurgency against the pro-Western government in Kiev erupted in April 2014, claiming nearly 9,400 lives.