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French police find bomb material in terror probe

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

Interior Minister Manuel Valls said some of the 12 suspected cell members arrested over the weekend appeared to have plans to go to Syria to fight in its civil war.

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Valls, quoted in an interview on the website of Paris Match magazine, said some had spent time in Tunisia and Egypt. He did not elaborate.

Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said the discovery of the bomb-making materials late Tuesday in Torcy led authorities to invoke a 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 Frenchman who claimed links to Al Qaeda shot and killed three Jewish children, a rabbi, and three paratroopers in southern France in March.

A counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said authorities were working to try to verify a possible link to Syria.

The case amounts to one of the biggest breakups of a suspected Islamic terror cell in years in France, and the international link revived memories of the height of the Iraq war in the mid-2000s — when counterterrorism authorities dismantled a string of feeder cells that plotted to send fighters to join the combat against US-led allied forces there.

French authorities have been concerned that the young militants might gain important skills in combat, bomb-making, and other terrorism tactics abroad — then later return home to carry out attacks.

Investigators were led to the parking lot through information collected during questioning of the suspects, who were arrested in raids in an investigation of a firebombing of the grocery north of Paris last month, Molins said.

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