Leaked transcripts of internet conversations between a potential French jihadist and a "senior member" of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have revealed that French landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre were top terror targets.
According to French daily Le Parisien, a 29-year-old French citizen of Algerian descent, known only as "Ali M", sent the online messages via a "special encryption programme".
The leaked report revealed that the pair were exchanging messages online for over a year with Ali M asked to send "suggestions on the future activity of jihad [in France]" to the senior terrorist.
Ali M began to reveal his plans for terror attacks in France. He suggested avoiding shopping areas so that France's Muslim population will not be involved in any attack.
"The targets should be average French citizens from the poorer classes gathering in small places, such as bars and nightclubs," he wrote.
After mentioning the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre as potential targets in a message, Ali M alludes to the Avignon arts festival when he talked of striking "cultural events taking place in southern France during which Christians gather for a month".
"The roads become thick with people and just a single grenade would be enough to hurt dozens of people," the message continued. "Imagine the effect of an improvised explosive device [IED]."
The wannabe jihadist was invited by the senior terrorist to meet AQIM leaders in the Saharan south of Algeria "for ten days of training and to learn military techniques, after which you will return [to France] to await further instructions."
Ali M was arrested one week before his departure to Algeria, via Tunisia, in July last year and remains in French custody awaiting trial for "criminal association".
His lawyer, Daphne Pugliesi, told Le Parisien that her client was a "weak young man" and that "his arrest has been a relief for him" after his alleged indoctrination by AQIM members.
France has witnessed a growing threat of terrorism in recent years as hundreds of young French Muslims have gone to fight abroad for jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, with the potential to return home as radicalised members of society.
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