© Reuters / Gonzalo Fuentes
FILE PHOTO: A French gendarme in Paris. November 2020.
French police have arrested a group of left-wing radicals who are suspected of making bombs and plotting to wage urban warfare, reports say. The leader has allegedly fought alongside the Kurds in Syria.

Seven people described as "ultra-left" were charged with forming a "terrorist criminal group" in order to carry out violent action, several French news outlets reported, citing official sources. Anti-terrorism prosecutors asked for pre-trial detention of six of the suspects who had appeared before a judge on Friday.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin later thanked police on social media for the operation against "these violent ultra-left activists," without confirming any details.

Earlier reports said that a total of nine people were initially arrested on Tuesday in Vitry-sur-Seine, outside Paris, the southern city of Toulouse and a commune called Cubjac. Two of them were later released without prosecution. Le Parisien newspaper said that arrests also took place in Rennes, in the northeast.

The suspects are six men and a woman, all in their early thirties.

According to BFM TV, the group's alleged leader had spent 10 months fighting for the Kurdish-led forces in northeastern Syria before returning to France in January 2018. The suspect was described as an "anarchist" who espoused "an ideology advocating for a revolution" and planned "guerrilla activities" in France.

Police reportedly seized a truck belonging to one of the suspects, where they found components used for making bombs, including dangerous chemicals and steel balls that were to be used as shrapnel. A sawn-off shotgun, a handgun, a knife and ammo were seized, and some reports said that hunting rifles were found as well. Police also recovered protective gear, including a helmet and a riot shield.

According to Le Parisien, at least one of the suspects has admitted to planning attacks against the police, gendarmes or soldiers. AFP, meanwhile, quoted a source saying that it was not yet confirmed by the investigators that the suspects were planning to target police officers.

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French politicians from conservative parties said the news came as a reminder of the threat posed by the radical left, and that the government's "lenient" attitudes have allowed left-wing extremists to flourish.