French police find bomb materials in terror probe

French police discovered bomb-making materials in an underground parking lot near Paris as part of a probe of an “extremely dangerous terrorist cell” linked to an attack on a kosher grocery, a state prosecutor said on Wednesday.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said the discovery late Tuesday in Torcy, east of the capital, led authorities to invoke a rarely used legal clause to allow them to extend questioning of the 12 suspects by a day — and possibly two.

Authorities have been on high alert for possible terror attacks by radical Islamists after a man who claimed links to al-Qaida shot and killed three Jewish children, a rabbi and three paratroopers in southern France in March.

Investigators were led to the parking lot through information collected during questioning of the suspects, who were arrested in weekend raids across France in a probe of a firebombing of the grocery north of Paris last month, Molins said. Authorities believe the two organizers of the Sept. 19 grenade attack in Sarcelles are in custody, Molins said. However, he suggested that the two people who actually carried it out could still be at large.

“When there is a serious risk of the imminence of a terrorist action in France, police custody — after 96 hours — can be extended by 24 hours,” Molins told reporters at the downtown Paris courthouse. It was only the second such extension since a 2006 revision to France's powerful anti-terrorism legislation. In most terrorism cases, police can detain suspects for questioning for up to four days before preliminary charges are filed or the suspects are released for a lack of enough evidence.

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