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French authorities find explosives after arrest of former jihadist in Syria

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PARIS — French police found three soda cans stuffed with explosives, nails, nuts and bolts and bomb-making instructions at the French Riviera apartment of a young jihadist who had returned from Syria, the prosecutor's office said Wednesday.

The 23-year-old — suspected of possible links to a known terror cell — was arrested Feb. 11 and charged with criminal association with intent to commit a terrorist act. He was identified only as Ibrahim B.

The official said there was no solid proof that the suspect intended to commit a terrorist attack in his homeland — the abiding fear of Western officials as hundreds of Europeans join fighters in Syria trying to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad. However, the man's arrest and the discovery of homemade bombs and a firearm at his home could uncover someone potentially in a position to do so, he said.

The official asked not to be identified by name, in keeping with the custom of the prosecutor's office. It was not immediately clear why word of the arrest only trickled out Wednesday.

French intelligence say he "navigated around a (terror) cell" described as "extremely dangerous" operating between the Riviera city of Cannes and the eastern Paris suburb of Torcy.

About 20 people have been arrested in the Cannes-Torcy case, which came to light after a grenade attack in 2012 on a kosher grocery in a northern suburb, Sarcelles. Police later arrested a dozen suspects and discovered a huge stash of bomb-making material in an underground garage in Torcy.

Ibrahim B. was arrested at his apartment near Cannes. The soda-bombs contained triacetone triperoxide, or TATP — the same substance used in the 2005 London subway and bus bombings. Together, they weighed more than one kilogram (2.2 pounds), the official from the prosecutor's office said.

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