France - Terrorism

Police arrest teenager over church hostage hoax

French police officers of the CSI unit patrol in the streets of Paris on June 30, 2016.
French police officers of the CSI unit patrol in the streets of Paris on June 30, 2016.

French police on Monday arrested a 16-year-old boy suspected of hacking the phone line of a church in central Paris and reporting a fake hostage crisis at the weekend.


The hoax sparked a massive security scare on Saturday, leading police and anti-terror units to cordon off streets around the St-Leu church in the heart of the city in the middle of the afternoon.

The teenager arrested Monday and a 17-year-old accomplice, who police are still hunting, are believed to have called in using the church's number and gave detailed information about the number of hostages and attackers.

The French interior ministry called the hoax "totally irresponsible" when France was on its highest possible alert after a string of terror attacks in the last two years.

On July 26, a priest was killed in a church in northwest France by two men who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group.

Prosecutors opened a probe at the weekend into falsely reporting a crime and spreading false information about a dangerous event, which could carry a sentence of up to two years in jail and a fine of 30,000 euros for an adult.

Sunday evening, French news magazine L'Obs published an interview with two teenagers aged 16 and 17 who claimed they were behind the hoax which they thought would "create a buzz."

They said they were admirers of French-Israeli hacker Gregory Chelli, known under his alias Ulcan, who is thought to be behind several sophisticated telephone hacks.

Chelli, who is on the run in Israel, denied any link to the Paris church prank on his Facebook account on Monday.


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