Paris: One of the five suspected Islamists arrested in France while allegedly plotting to murder the head of Paris` main mosque was "ready to die" for his cause, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said on Wednesday.
"One of the five said they were ready to die," Hortefeux told journalists following the arrest of four men and a woman in Paris and at the city`s main Charles de Gaulle airport on Monday and Tuesday.
They were allegedly plotting to murder Dalil Boubakeur, the head of Paris` main mosque, who has been under heightened police protection in recent months.
"One of the five spent some time in Afghanistan," Hortefeux said. Earlier, an official source had claimed all five had trained in the Pakistani-Afghan border region, a known haven of Islamist extremists.
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden warned France last month that its planned ban on the Islamic full-face veil in public places and its involvement in the war in Afghanistan justified violence against its nationals.
Hortefeux subsequently said that France faced a real terror threat that needed "total vigilance”.
On October 17, Hortefeux said that Saudi security forces had warned about an al Qaeda threat to Europe and to France in particular.
In September, he also mentioned two other threats -- one based on a warning from Interpol and another of a possible attack by a female suicide bomber.
Western security officials have also warned that al Qaeda may be planning attacks in Europe similar to those that struck Mumbai in 2008.
On Saturday, French police arrested a man in his 30s suspected of having travelled to the sensitive Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.
He has been held in custody pending trial on charges of "criminal association and relations with a terrorist enterprise”.