French police on June 26 continued questioning 10 far-right extremists over an alleged plot to attack Muslims. The nine men and one woman (aged 32 to 69) were arrested in raids across France late on June 24.

Police have linked the 10 to a little-known group called Action des Forces Operationnelles (Operational Forces Action), which urges French people to combat Muslims, or what it calls “the enemy within”.

As reported by The Local, rifles, handguns and homemade grenades were found during searches in the Paris area, the Mediterranean island of Corsica and the western Charentes-Maritimes region.

The group’s suspected leader, identified as Guy S., was a monitor for the far-right National Front during last year’s presidential and legislative elections, according to the mayor of the western town of Tonnay-Charente.

But a local official for the party, since renamed the National Rally, said the man, a retired police officer, did not figure on party membership lists and was not among the party’s known “supporters”.

Meanwhile, party leader Marine Le Pen welcomed the arrests, saying “any terrorist attack targeting people must obviously be repelled with the utmost force”.

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) expressed its “deep concern” over the arrests, calling on “all political leaders to denounce with the greatest firmness the violent actions directed against the Muslims of France”.

“I’m not surprised by these arrests because the current climate of Islamophobia encourages this sort of passage from words to deeds,” said Abdallah Zekri of the French Council of the Muslim Faith.

According to The Local, France registered 72 violent anti-Muslim acts last year, up from 67 in 2016.