French police secure Paris synagogue (file)
French police secure Paris synagogue (file) Reuters

French police apprehended five men who are suspected of making threats and conspiring online to attack a synagogue. 

The suspects, all believed to be far-right activists, were arrested Tuesday morning. Two were detained in the southern French city of Montpellier. The remaining three were arrested in nearby Beziers. 

The five men are accused of discussing on various social media sites their intentions to burn down and destroy the Grande-Motte Synagogue in Herault, also in southern France. 

Also on Tuesday, French police arrested three men and two women on suspicion of aiding murder suspect Mehdi Nemmouche, who is accused of killing four people at the Brussels' Jewish Museum on May 29.

Those arrested on Tuesday include people Nemmouche may have met while in detention, a source close to the case said. Further details about them were not known.

Nemmouche was arrested in the southern French city of Marseille shortly after shooting dead an Israeli couple, a French woman and a Belgian in a grisly anti-Semitic terrorist attack.

After his arrest, reports surfaced that Nemmouche had been planning to launch a terror attack along the Champs Elysees on France’s biggest national holiday.

Anti-Semitism has become a serious and rising problem in France. In the past 10 days, a Jewish couple was brutally assaulted in a Paris suburb, and an 8-year-old girl was verbally attacked and harassed by two fellow students at her elementary school in Mions. 

On Sunday, two days before Tuesday's arrests, a rally was held in Creteil against anti-Semitism. Some 1,500 people gathered in response to the vicious assault on the Jewish couple. The woman was raped and the couple's apartment burglarized by three armed assailants in the anti-Semitic attack. 

The same attack also drew condemnation from French Prime Minister Manuel Vals and President Francois Hollande.

"What happened in Creteil, this abominable crime, this violence, the rape of a young woman, (the attack on) a family because they are Jewish. That's not France," stressed Valls. 

At the rally French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said, "We need to make the fight against racism and anti-Semitism a national cause by getting all bodies concerned involved." 

This could indicate efforts on the part of the French government to select the issue as the subject of a national publicity campaign next year.