French security authorities foil a plan to attack soccer events during the Paris Olympics

France has been on high security alert ahead of the Paris Olympics and Paralympics.

PARIS, France — France’s security authorities have foiled a plan to attack soccer events during the Paris Olympics, the country’s interior minister said Friday.

Gerald Darmanin said in a statement that members of the General Directorate of Internal Security arrested an 18-year-old man from Chechnya on May 22 on suspicion of being behind a plan to attack soccer events that will be held in the southern city of Saint-Etienne.

According to the initial investigation, the man was preparing an attack targeting the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne that will host several soccer matches during the Summer Games. The planned attack was to target spectators and police forces, the statement said. The suspect wanted to attack the Olympic events “to die and become a martyr,” the statement also said.

The Paris Olympics will run from July 26-Aug. 11. Soccer matches will take place in cities across France before the final in Paris’ Stade de France.

France is on high security alert ahead of the Paris Olympics and Paralympics, which are expected to draw millions of visitors to the country.

Darmanin, the interior minister, did not cite a specific security threat against the soccer event, but said there are multiple potential threats, including those from Islamic extremist groups, violent environmental activists, far-right groups and cyberattacks from Russia or other adversaries.

Security concerns are notably high for the exceptional opening ceremony, which bring more than 100 world leaders to the French capital. It involves boats carrying athletes along the River Seine on a 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) parade and huge crowds watching from the embankments.

In April, French President Emmanuel Macron said the July 26 opening ceremony for the Paris Olympics planned on the River Seine could be moved instead to the country’s national stadium if the security threat is deemed too high.

Macron said France’s law enforcement forces will be mobilized at an exceptional level for the security of the open-air event, “but if we think there are risks, depending on our analysis of the context, we have fallback scenarios.”

Organizers had originally planned a grandiose opening ceremony for as many as 600,000 people, most watching free of charge from riverbanks. But security and logistical concerns have led the government to progressively scale back its ambitions. Earlier this year, the overall number of spectators was reduced to around 300,000.

The French government also decided that tourists won’t be given free access to watch the opening ceremony because of security concerns. Free access will be invitation-only instead.

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