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Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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Police Foil Church Attack Plot in France; Suspect Arrested

paris foiled attack

(Photo : Reuters) French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (L) and Archbishop of Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois speak to journalists at the end of a meeting at the Interior Ministry in Paris, April 23, 2015. An Algerian man suspected of planning an imminent attack on a church was arrested in Paris, with police discovering Kalashnikovs, hand guns and ammunition in his possession, top officials said on Wednesday.

French police have arrested a man suspected of planning a jihadist attack against a church in Paris.

The arrest of Algerian national, Sid Ahmed Ghlam, on Sunday was purely by chance.  Ghlam, who appeared to have accidentally shot himself on the leg, called an ambulance and claimed he was shot during an armed robbery in his Paris home.

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When police arrived at the scene, they followed a trail of blood to the suspect's car.  There, they discovered stockpile of weapons, a detailed plot to attack churches, and a list of possible targets. 

Ghlam's communication equipment indicated he was receiving instructions from Syria on how to carry out the attack.  Police also uncovered pieces of evidence that would link Ghlam to the killing of a woman named, Aurélie Chatelain, over the weekend. 

Paris prosecutor François Molins said the bullet that killed 32-year-old Chatelain matched the Sphinx revolver found in the suspect's car.  Further investigation revealed traces of her blood was found on Ghlam's jacket.  Chatelain's body was found inside her car last Sunday in the Villejuif, a Paris suburb.

Ghlam, a 24-year-old IT student, was brought to a Paris hospital following his arrest to receive treatment for his gunshot wound. The city prosecutor said Ghlam had been inconsistent with his statements on how he ended up wounding himself -- such as telling investigators he had shot himself while trying to get rid of the stash of weapons by throwing them into the Seine River.

His 25-year-old girlfriend was also taken in for questioning on Wednesday. 

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls renewed warnings that France is facing an "unprecedented terrorist threat".

"Terrorists are targeting France to divide us," Valls said on Wednesday.  "To target a church is to target a symbol of France, the very essence of France," he added after visiting the two churches allegedly targets of the planned attack.

A group of French bishops meantime urged followers not to be intimated by threats but remain vigilant as the same time. 

"The terrorist threats, whatever they may be, seek to sow fear. Catholics will not give in," they said in a joint statement.

In January, 12 people were killed after Islamic extremists attacked the Charlie Hebdo magazine office.  A Jewish supermarket was also  attacked, killing a policewoman and four others.

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