France stopped a terrorist plot targeting the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre art museum and a nuclear power plant, it was revealed Wednesday as French authorities announced new measures for combating terrorism.
French police discovered the plot after decoding messages between a 29-year-old Algerian butcher living in southern France, referred to as Ali M by French authorities, and a man known to be one of the highest-ranking members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) The Telegraph of London reported.
After meeting on an Islamist website, the al-Qaeda member asked the father of two for "suggestions concerning how to conduct jihad in the place you are currently," according to Le Parisien.
Ali M, using an encryption program, listed nuclear power plants, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre in Paris and "planes at the moment of takeoff" as potential targets.
The al-Qaeda contact told Ali M that if he traveled to Algeria, he could receive military training before returning to France to "await instructions."
"I am fully ready and prepared," he replied, according to The Telegraph.
Police arrested Ali M in June of last year, one month before he was scheduled to travel to Algeria for his training.
The man's lawyer told Le Parisien that he had been brainwashed and that his arrest came as a relief,
AQIM is "an Algeria-based Sunni Muslim jihadist group," according to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center. Some AQIM militants were involved in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including the American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.
In 2009, AQIM claimed responsibility for the slaying of U.S.citizen Christopher Leggett, who was killed in Mauritania while conducting missionary work.
The anti-terrorism legislation being presented to the French Parliament would grant authorities the power to shut down websites they believe are producing Islamist hate propaganda, according to The Telegraph.