At least 10 people, nine men and one woman, have been charged in connection with an alleged plan to attack Muslims.
The defendants, aged 32 to 69, were arrested in raids across France on June 23. The police found they were all linked to a right-wing extremist gang called Action des Forces Operationnelles (Operational Forces Action).
The little-known group, according to the prosecutor, had arranged plans for a massive terror plot. The militants allegedly planned to target women wearing veils/headscarves and had also people who had been accused of aiding Muslim terror groups.
The New York Times reports the police found "14 handguns, 22 rifles, thousands of cartridges, explosive materials and a guide called 'homemade napalm' in their homes."
The group regularly calls on the French people to fight Muslims, who are "the enemy within," according to The Local (France). They reportedly offer "combat and survivalist training" and conduct meetings to discuss their targets and how to attack them.
It is led by a retired police officer, who has only been identified as "Guy S."
As per the website Tracking Terrorism, Action des Forces Operationnelles was formed in 2017.
Hate crimes against Muslims have soared in France for nearly three years, notably after the Islamist attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.
The toxic political climate then helped militant right-wing groups like Action des Forces Operationnelles to organize as well as facilitated the reemergence of right-wing political parties, so much so that at one point, during the first round of the 2017 French elections, the National Front's Marine Le Pen, who is virulently racist and a notorious Islamophobe, appeared victorious.
“I’m not surprised by these arrests because the current climate of Islamophobia encourages this sort of passage from words to deeds,” said Abdallah Zekri of the French Council of the Muslim Faith in the wake of the recent arrests.
In 2017, France registered 72 Islamophobic acts. In 2016, the number was 67.
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