French authorities have arrested three members of the country's external intelligence service for planning a murder outside the exercise of their functions.
Two of the men from France's General Directorate for External Security were arrested in the night between July 23 and July 24 in Créteil, a southeastern suburb of Paris, because it looked like they were "about to carry out a criminal act on a 54-year-old woman," the prosecutor's office revealed in a statement on Wednesday.
Police, alerted by a local resident, found them in a stolen car with a fake licence plate. Both were wearing gloves and had army-issue knives. Officers also retrieved a 9 mm-calibre handgun.
Police also identified and arrested a third person — a private security agent — believed to have assisted in the organisation of the murder plot.
All three have been charged with attempting first-degree murder in an organised gang, possession of Category B firearms, handling stolen goods, and conspiracy to murder. They face up to 10 years in prison.
Two other people were arrested on July 30 and 31. Both have been charged with complicity in an attempted first-degree murder and taking part in a criminal conspiracy and also face up to 10 years behind bars.
The prosecutor's office said that three of the individuals — those arrested on July 24 and July 31 — were soldiers stationed at a specialised parachute training centre under the DGSE's authority in Saran, 120 km south-west of Paris.
The Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) is France's equivalent to Britain's MI6 and the USA's CIA. It is tasked with carrying out missions to further French interests on foreign soil.