sot france foiled church terror attack_00011508.jpg
BFMTV
sot france foiled church terror attack_00011508.jpg
Now playing
03:29
Prosecutor: Suspect had a list of targets
WJW
Now playing
01:45
Man accused of plotting attack at parade
Armed police  operate in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Police say two suspects in last week's Paris attacks, a man and a woman, have been killed in a police operation north of the capital. Two police officers have been injured in the standoff. Police have said the operation is targeting the suspected mastermind of last week's attacks, believed to be holed up in an apartment in Saint-Denis with several other heavily armed suspects. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Francois Mori/AP
Armed police operate in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Police say two suspects in last week's Paris attacks, a man and a woman, have been killed in a police operation north of the capital. Two police officers have been injured in the standoff. Police have said the operation is targeting the suspected mastermind of last week's attacks, believed to be holed up in an apartment in Saint-Denis with several other heavily armed suspects. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Now playing
01:42
What to do in the event of a terror attack
psychology of terror sanjay gupta nws orig_00002811.jpg
ISIS
psychology of terror sanjay gupta nws orig_00002811.jpg
Now playing
01:25
The psychology of terror
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 02:  An ambulance leaves the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Ave. after a mass shooting at a country music festival nearby on October 2, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 02: An ambulance leaves the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Ave. after a mass shooting at a country music festival nearby on October 2, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:46
Is it an act of violence or terror?
australia terror plot cabrera kayyem segment_00002218.jpg
Seven News
australia terror plot cabrera kayyem segment_00002218.jpg
Now playing
01:39
Four arrested in alleged airplane terror plot
Washington, UNITED STATES:  The terrorist threat advisory is seen 10 August, 2006 at Ronald Reagan National Airport, in Washington, DC. After Britain said 10 August it had thwarted a plot to wreak "mass murder" by the simultaneous mid-air bombings of planes to the United States, the US raised the threat level to "severe" or "Red" for all commercial flights flying from Britain to the United States, and "high" or "Orange" for all commercial aviation operating in the United States, including international flights.  AFP PHOTO / TIM SLOAN  (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Washington, UNITED STATES: The terrorist threat advisory is seen 10 August, 2006 at Ronald Reagan National Airport, in Washington, DC. After Britain said 10 August it had thwarted a plot to wreak "mass murder" by the simultaneous mid-air bombings of planes to the United States, the US raised the threat level to "severe" or "Red" for all commercial flights flying from Britain to the United States, and "high" or "Orange" for all commercial aviation operating in the United States, including international flights. AFP PHOTO / TIM SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:11
What FBI director wants Americans to know about terror
Investigators inspect a truck following a shooting incident in New York on October 31, 2017. 
Several people were killed and numerous others injured in New York on Tuesday when a suspect plowed a vehicle into a bike and pedestrian path in Lower Manhattan, and struck another vehicle on Halloween, police said. A suspect exited the vehicle holding up fake guns, before being shot by police and taken into custody, officers said. The motive was not immediately apparent.

 / AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT        (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images
Investigators inspect a truck following a shooting incident in New York on October 31, 2017. Several people were killed and numerous others injured in New York on Tuesday when a suspect plowed a vehicle into a bike and pedestrian path in Lower Manhattan, and struck another vehicle on Halloween, police said. A suspect exited the vehicle holding up fake guns, before being shot by police and taken into custody, officers said. The motive was not immediately apparent. / AFP PHOTO / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:43
The vulnerability of 'soft targets' to terror
The operations center of the Terrorist Screening Center
Terrorist Screening Center
The operations center of the Terrorist Screening Center
Now playing
05:20
An exclusive look inside the Terrorist Screening Center
From the left, British businessman Chris Norman,  Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, French President Francois Hollande, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, and Alek Skarlatos a U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon pose at the Elysee Palace, Monday Aug.24, 2015 in Paris, France. Hollande  pinned the Legion of Honor medal on U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and their years-long friend Anthony Sadler, who subdued the gunman as he moved through the train with an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest. The British businessman, Chris Norman, also jumped into the fray. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)
Michel Euler/AP
From the left, British businessman Chris Norman, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, French President Francois Hollande, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, and Alek Skarlatos a U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon pose at the Elysee Palace, Monday Aug.24, 2015 in Paris, France. Hollande pinned the Legion of Honor medal on U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and their years-long friend Anthony Sadler, who subdued the gunman as he moved through the train with an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest. The British businessman, Chris Norman, also jumped into the fray. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)
Now playing
02:08
Train heroes honored for thwarting attack
shutterstock
Now playing
01:56
Is this terror or a mass killing?
terror attack vulnerabilities brown dnt tsr_00013715.jpg
terror attack vulnerabilities brown dnt tsr_00013715.jpg
Now playing
01:41
How vulnerable are citizens to terror attacks?
In this photo provided by Christina Cathleen Coons, a person lies on the floor after an incident on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on the train wounding several people before American passengers subdued him, according to officials and one of the Americans involved. (Christina Cathleen Coon via AP)
AP
In this photo provided by Christina Cathleen Coons, a person lies on the floor after an incident on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on the train wounding several people before American passengers subdued him, according to officials and one of the Americans involved. (Christina Cathleen Coon via AP)
Now playing
01:04
Exclusive cell phone video from inside train
tsr dnt scuitto ISIS plots thwarted_00005604.jpg
tsr dnt scuitto ISIS plots thwarted_00005604.jpg
Now playing
01:41
FBI: Several July 4th terror attacks thwarted
isis in america north carolina teen arrested sciutto dnt tsr _00001312.jpg
isis in america north carolina teen arrested sciutto dnt tsr _00001312.jpg
Now playing
01:43
American teen arrested in alleged ISIS plot
WHDH
Now playing
02:12
New details released in Boston terror plot

Story highlights

NEW: Suspect identified by French authorities as Sid Ahmed Ghlam

Prosecutor: Someone in Syria asked the arrested man to target French churches

Evidence connects terror plot suspect to the killing of Aurelie Chatelain, he says

CNN —  

A 24-year-old man is in custody after he called for an ambulance, only to have French authorities come and discover weapons, ammunition and evidence of his plans to target churches – an attack that someone in Syria requested, a top prosecutor said Wednesday.

The man was identified later as Sid Ahmed Ghlam, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told television broadcaster TF1.

Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said Ghlam asked for medical help at his home in Paris’$2 13th district Sunday morning, claiming he had accidentally injured himself when he mishandled a weapon.

But authorities found more than a man with a gunshot wound in his thigh. Molins said Ghlam was someone suspected of killing a 32-year-old woman hours earlier and who then intended to launch a larger-scale terror attack in the near future.

“(He) let them believe that he was the victim,” French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday. “But police understood that there was an investigation that needed to be initiated.”

That probe started in earnest when police spotted traces of blood and bags in the suspect’s car.

Based on this discovery “and in view of the attitude and suspicious behavior of the individual,” they looked inside the car and found a loaded Kalashnikov gun, a 9-mm revolver, three cell phones, a laptop, a USB key, a satellite navigation system “and handwritten documents that contained information on possible targets,” Molins said.

A search inside his home turned up yet more potentially key evidence, including three more Kalashnikovs, three bulletproof vests, police armbands, a camera, some 2,000 euros in cash and “documents in Arabic mentioning al Qaeda and ISIS,” according to the prosecutor.

“A terrorist attack has been foiled,” Hollande said. “It’s not the first time.”

Prosecutor: Algerian native was in contact with someone in Syria

Earlier Ghlam was identified as a computer science student originally from Algeria.

According to Molins, he lived in that North African country until 2001, joined his parents in France for the next two years, then went back to Algeria. He got his undergraduate degree in that nation, then returned to France to study electronics.

He’d never been convicted of a crime; in fact, the lone accusation against him in August 2013 was later withdrawn.

But that didn’t mean French authorities didn’t know about Ghlam.

“He had been noticed wishing to go to Syria,” Molins explained. The prosecutor added that authorities found nothing to suggest he was imminent threat, “but he was under surveillance.”

Law enforcement checked on the man once in 2014 and again this year, Cazeneuve said. The minister said the man planned to head to Syria, a country embroiled in a bloody, years-long civil war that has attracted foreigners wishing to join extremist militant groups like ISIS.

There was no indication he ever made it. But, Molins said, computer searches revealed that the man had been communicating with someone in Syria who “asked him to target a church.”

Slain woman called Paris’ first terror victim since January

What church? Authorities didn’t disclose that detail on Wednesday, though Molins did say “this target was confirmed by (the suspect’s satellite navigation system) and handwritten documents in his car.”

Paris is home to the famed Notre Dame cathedral and Sacre Coeur basilica, both huge draws for tourists. It’s not known if either were in line to be attacked, but Prime Minister Manuel Valls Wednesday visited one of the churches allegedly targeted, which was located in the Paris suburb of Villejuif.

Assuming Ghlam doesn’t walk free anytime soon – for now, he’s in custody awaiting possible charges – that attack won’t happen anytime soon.

But authorities say he’s already claimed at least one victim.

Her name is Aurelie Chatelain. The 32-year-old was found dead Sunday morning sitting in the passenger seat of a parked car in Villejuif, killed by a single bullet that struck her shoulder, went through her body and ended up embedded in the seat.

Cazeneuve said Chatelain was the mother of a 5-year-old girl and had come to the region on Saturday to attend a training class.

It’s not known what connection, if any, she had with the suspect. Nonetheless, Molins said that ballistics, DNA, satellite navigation and other evidence connected him to the death of Chatelain, who Molins called the region’s first victim of terrorism since January.

That’s when the massacre at Charlie Hebdo’s offices and the siege of a kosher market in Paris took place, prompting French authorities to beef up security measures.

“France, like other countries, is facing a terror threat that is unprecedented in its nature and magnitude,” Valls said. “… Terrorists are targeting France to divide us.”

CNN’s Jethro Mullen, Andrew Carey, Sandrine Amiel and Ariana Williams contributed to this report.