Paris: Five men charged in France with planning an attack in the Paris area were directed from the Islamic State group's heartland, a prosecutor has said.
Last weekend police arrested seven men and seized weapons in raids in the cities of Strasbourg and Marseille.
Two of the suspects were later released but the other five -- four Frenchmen and a Moroccan -- were charged and remanded in custody by anti-terrorism judges yesterday, the prosecutor's office said.
"The breakup of this network... Has protected us against a large-scale attack," said President Francois Hollande.
France has been under a state of emergency since January 2015 when Islamist extremists carried out the first of three large-scale attacks in the country that have left 238 people dead.
Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said items seized in Strasbourg included written documents showing "clear allegiance" to IS and "glorifying death and martyrdom".
"The Strasbourg commando unit, but also the individual arrested in Marseille, were in possession of common instructions... Sent by a coordinator from the Iraqi-Syrian region via encrypted applications," he said.
Investigators established that the Strasbourg cell was planning an attack on December 1 on one of a number of possible targets, although Molins admitted authorities have so far been "unable to determine the exact one".
A police source said on Thursday that the cell's members researched "a dozen sites" online including the Christmas market on the Champs-Elysees, the Disneyland Paris theme park, cafe terraces in the northeast of the capital, the Paris police headquarters and a metro station.
The suspects were "in possession of or in search of weapons and financing" and were "looking for targets," Molins said.
He said the coordinator had also been in contact with two other people who were arrested on June 14, during the Euro 2016 football tournament in France.
One of those suspects told interrogators that an attack was planned, and mentioned the headquarters of the Paris police and also that of the internal intelligence agency DGSI outside the capital.
Authorities in Portugal had been aware of the Moroccan, aged 46, who was arrested in Marseille, because of his possible radicalisation while living in the country.
The four other suspects, aged between 35 and 37, were previously unknown to French intelligence services, although two of them are suspected of having travelled to Syria in 2015.
All five were charged with "criminal conspiracy with terrorists with the intention of preparing criminal attacks".