French police detain man who threatened to blow himself up on a train

French security forces on Friday detained a 24-year-old man who threatened to blow himself up on a high-speed train and were evaluating his psychiatric health after finding no explosives on him, police said.

French police detain man who threatened to blow himself up on a train
Illustration photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

The TGV train heading from the northeastern city of Colmar to Paris was delayed as a result of being stopped for security forces to intervene, a spokesman for national rail operator SNCF said.

“The situation is finished and under control. The individual has been arrested,” he told AFP.

The local police station said the 24-year-old “was threatening to blow himself up” and asked the passengers if they believed in God, but had neither weapon nor explosives on him.

The train carrying 280 people was held up shortly before 8am in the northeastern town of Louvigny to allow police to intervene and detain him for “threatening to commit an attack”, it said.

Some 100 members of the security forces and specialised sniffer dogs carried out a “thorough search” of the train but found nothing, before the train was allowed back on its way at around 10.20am.

Investigators said the man, who had already made a similar threat on a train in the northeastern city of Reims last year, was undergoing a “psychiatric evaluation”.

A police source said that the man was initially detained by a policeman who was travelling on the train as an ordinary passenger under a system that allows them to travel for free if they signal their presence to the conductor.

This set-up “each day proves its efficiency for the safety of French people on transport”, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

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French court jails man for 2020 cathedral arson attack

A French court on Wednesday handed a four-year jail term to an arsonist for starting a fire that severely damaged a Gothic cathedral in the city of Nantes in 2020.

French court jails man for 2020 cathedral arson attack

Emmanuel Abayisenga, a 42-year-old Rwandan, is also facing legal action for a separate incident in which he allegedly killed a priest in western France in 2021.

The court ruled that Abayisenga was not mentally sound at the time of the fire at the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paulwhen it handed down the sentence.

The court also banned Abayisenga from bearing weapons and staying in the western Loire-Atlantique region, where Nantes is located, for five years.

His lawyer, Meriem Abkoui, said her client’s answers in court occasionally “lacked coherence” and that his criminal responsibility was questionable.

She added that she was waiting for the results of psychiatric tests in the other legal proceedings against him, saying his trial for the priest murder could take place late next year.

Abayisenga, who arrived in France in 2012 and had been a volunteer for the local diocese, had admitted causing the blaze at the start of the hearing.

He said he had entered the cathedral to pray but then “lost control” after passing by a location in the building where he suffered a violent attack in 2018.

Speaking through an interpreter, he said he regretted what happened and asked for forgiveness.

Abayisenga has a history of unsuccessful asylum claims and received an order to leave France in 2019, which was said to have deeply troubled him.

The court acknowledged the defendant’s health issues, including hearing difficulties, incontinence, lung problems and eating disorders.

Prosecutor Veronique Wester-Ouisse said the defendant set fire to the cathedral knowingly due to “huge anger and a feeling of revenge linked to his administrative situation”.

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze quickly and save the main structure, but its famed 17th-century organ, which had survived the French revolution and bombardment during World War II, was destroyed.

Also lost were priceless artefacts, paintings and stained-glass windows that contained remnants of 16th-century glass.

The cathedral’s owners estimated the damage at more than €40 million.

The blaze in Nantes came 15 months after the devastating fire at the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, which raised questions about the security risks for other historic churches across France.