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2 arrested in French anti-terrorism probe

PARIS — Two Frenchmen suspected of plotting terrorist attacks and making explosives were detained Thursday, amid heightened concern about threats to France over its military campaign against fighters linked to Al Qaeda in Mali.

Officials at the Interior Ministry and the Paris prosecutor’s office say intelligence and police officers detained the young men Thursday in a house in Marignane, near the Mediterranean port city of Marseille. Authorities were scouring the house for explosives or other evidence of terrorist connections. The suspects are French citizens, aged 18 and 20, the officials said.

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The men were suspected of preparing explosives and had been under surveillance since November, the Interior Ministry official said. They had been identified as a threat based on ‘‘jihadist messages and consultations’’ online, and authorities moved in because they believed the two were ready to carry out terrorist acts, he said.

It was not immediately clear what the target or location of their potential attacks might have been, or whether the men were involved in any international network.

French authorities have been on high alert for terrorist activity for years, especially since the French military launched an operation in January against extremists who imposed severe Islamic rule in the West African nation of Mali.

There was no immediate link between the men detained Thursday and the Mali campaign. But authorities have warned that the operation increases the risk of attacks by militants in France.

One French-Malian citizen detained in Mali in November was sent to France this week and is in custody, the Paris prosecutor’s office said Thursday. Ibrahim Ouattara, a 24-year-old from the working class Paris suburb of Aubervilliers, had a history of trips to such places as Yemen and Somalia and is suspected of being a scout to establish a recruiting network to Mali.

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