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France foils attack plot, plans constitutional reforms

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Paris: A jihadist plot was foiled last week in the French region of Orleans, southwest of Paris, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said today, as the government prepared constitutional changes to enshrine emergency police powers.

“A planned attack targeting representatives of state forces in the Orleans region was foiled last week by the DGSI (France’s internal intelligence agency),” Cazeneuve said.

Two French citizens aged 20 and 24 were arrested on December 19, he said. The older has a police record for petty crime.

A police source told AFP that one was originally from Morocco and the other from Togo.

They were “in contact with a French jihadist in Syria and the investigation ought to establish if he ordered the attacks that one of the two arrested men has admitted they were planning to carry out against soldiers, police and representatives of the state,” Cazeneuve said.

“These arrests are the result of meticulous work by our intelligence services and bring the number of attacks foiled on the national territory since 2013 to 10,” he added.

He also said that 3,414 people had been turned away from France’s borders since a state of emergency was introduced in the wake of last month’s Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead.

They were refused entry “due to the risk they present to security and public order,” Cazeneuve said.

France took back control of its national borders on the night of the attacks on November 13, which is permitted under European rules in special circumstances.

Police also announced plans tosday to hold a special recruitment drive and exams in March that will help meet the government’s goal of appointing an additional 5,000 trainees in the coming year.

The announcements came a day before the government was due to present reforms aiming to inscribe emergency security powers in the constitution.

Emergency policing powers used under the state of emergency — such as house arrests and the right to raid houses without judicial oversight — are currently based on a simple law, which can be challenged at the constitutional court.

An environmental activist has already challenged the right to the house arrests, although the court ruled today that they were allowed under state of emergency rules.

President Francois Hollande has called for the powers to be protected from further litigation by placing them in the constitution.

But there have been criticisms over the violence of police raids, cases of mistaken identity and people losing their jobs because they were placed under house arrest.