Explosives stolen from French army base - terrorism not ruled out

Reuters/Ranu Abhelakh
Explosives have been stolen from a munitions base in the south of France. Around 200 detonators and explosives were taken from the facility in the town of Miramas. The theft comes despite an increase in security after two major terrorist attacks in 2015.

Explosives, along with 180 detonators and 40 grenades were snatched from the complex, which is around 60 kilometers northeast of Marseille. Investigators are still trying to find out the full extent of the raid and haven’t ruled out that more explosives could be missing. The theft was first spotted at the 200-acre base, used as a logistics center for France’s foreign operations, on Monday.

The mayor of Miramas, Frederic Vigouroux, says he is extremely concerned about the theft at the military base, which hosts up to 200 military and civilian personnel. The mayor added that it’s the largest munitions base in Provence and there could as many as 260 detonators unaccounted for.

"This is a site that is highly secure and well-guarded. All state services are on tenterhooks," he said.

Vigouroux said he was surprised the thieves were able to get into the highly guarded complex, while it later emerged that there were reportedly no security cameras around the site’s fences.

“There are dogs and everything else that is needed to keep this material safe. The thieves apparently gained entry via a fence. The whole town has been listening to the news on the radio or reading newspapers,” he added, according to the L’Express publication.

The investigators initially believe that those involved in organized crime were behind the raid, but they haven’t ruled out terrorism.

The theft comes amid heightened security after a suspected Islamist beheaded his boss and then tried to blow up a factory near Lyon on June 26. Yassin Salhi, 35 tried to blow up the “Air Products” gas factory in the town of Saint-Quentin-Fallavier.

READ MORE: Man beheaded, several injured in Islamist attack on French gas factory

He entered the facility using his duty pass. Police later found the beheaded body of Salhi’s boss on the factory premises.

The suspect, who is being held in police custody, denied the attack was religiously motivated. However, French police said that Salhi shouted “Allahou Akbar” (God is great) during his detention.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke about the necessity of combating Islamic extremism after the incident.

“We cannot lose this war, because it is essentially a war of civilization,” he told radio Europe 1. “It is our society, our civilization and our values that we must defend,” he added.

The attack at the gas factory came just over six months after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and a deadly raid by jihadists on a Jewish supermarket in the outskirts of the French capital a day later.