(Toulouse) The man suspected of having placed an improvised explosive device on Friday morning in the Saint-Étienne cathedral in Toulouse was arrested at the start of the afternoon by the police, we learned from the prosecutor.
“The person suspected of having left the package was arrested and placed in police custody, he will be heard,” Toulouse public prosecutor Samuel Vuelta Simon told AFP.
He was known to the police for drunken driving, contempt of an officer, narcotics and had been “implicated in other cases and twice declared criminally irresponsible”, he added.
At this stage, the terrorist track is not privileged, according to a source close to the investigation.
Around 8:30 a.m., the Saint-Étienne cathedral in Toulouse was evacuated during mass.
A few moments earlier, a man wearing a cap, taken for a delivery man by the sexton, crossed the nave to place a package at the foot of the altar.
As he ran away, he bumped into the sexton who was trying to hold him back.
The suspect was searched for several hours before being located in Balma, a residential suburb of Toulouse.
After the incident, the sexton asked the faithful to evacuate the cathedral, which adjoins the prefecture, and alerted the police.
The surroundings of the cathedral were cordoned off while the deminers neutralized the explosive device which did not contain a detonator.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who had reported around 9:30 a.m. on Twitter a “police operation in downtown Toulouse” asking to avoid the area, added less than 45 minutes later that the operation was “completed. No casualties”.
The package looked like “an improvised explosive device, a priori without a firing device”, he said in a statement to the Cnews channel.
“Mixed handicrafts were contained in a wooden crate. [Le suspect] will be questioned by the PJ, who will try to understand his motivations, ”said the Toulouse prosecutor.
The suspect deposited “a white package which was between 20 and 25 cm wide”, according to the description of Father Jean-Jacques Rouchi, who celebrated mass in front of around 40 people.
“I strongly condemn this act and regret that in our country, a place of prayer as well as its faithful are targeted by an explosive device”, reacted the Archbishop of Toulouse Guy de Kerimel in a press release, calling on Catholics “to celebrate the Holy Week with confidence”.