April 19 (UPI) — French police arrested two men on suspicion of planning to violently disrupt the country’s presidential election this weekend, a Paris prosecutor said.
The arrests came in Marseille on Tuesday. The men, 23 and 29, had an apartment hideout containing firearms and explosives, prosecutor Francois Molins said, and planned an “imminent” and “violent” act.
The arrests came five days before the first round of France’s presidential election Sunday.
Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said in a televised statement that the two suspects, identified by police as Mahiedine M. and Clement B., are French citizens who became radicalized Muslims while in prison. Fekl added they were planning “in the very short term an attack on French soil.”
France has been under a state of emergency since the November 2015 terrorist attack in Paris that killed 130 people. The arrests Tuesday added another layer of uncertainty and anxiety to the French elections; among the leading candidates is Marine Le Pen, whose far-right National Front Party endorses a ban on immigration and regularly expresses hostility toward Muslims in France.
More than 50,000 police and security officers will be deployed across France for Sunday’s election, and for its second round on May 7.