French police detain man claiming to wear explosive vest at Iran consulate in Paris

Iranian man allegedly wears vest containing three fake grenades; was previously convicted for setting fire to tires in front of embassy entrance in 2023

French police officers take part in a security perimeter near the consulate of Iran in Paris on April 19, 2024. (Miguel Medina/AFP)
French police officers take part in a security perimeter near the consulate of Iran in Paris on April 19, 2024. (Miguel Medina/AFP)

PARIS, France (AFP) — French authorities Friday detained a man suspected of entering the Iranian consulate in Paris and falsely claiming to be armed with an explosive vest, police and prosecutors said.

No explosives or arms were found on the man or the premises after he surrendered to police following the incident.

The man, born in 1963 in Iran, had already been convicted for setting fire to tires in front of the entrance of the Iranian embassy in Paris in 2023, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

Police arrested the suspect, who has not been named, when he exited of his own accord after appearing to have “threatened violent action” inside, it said.

But “no explosive materials have been observed at this stage,” either on him, in his car or in the building.

According to a police source, who asked not to be named, he was wearing a vest with large pockets containing three fake grenades.

Police officers and rescue workers wait for instructions by the Iranian consulate on April 19, 2024 in Paris. (AP /Thomas Padilla)

Police earlier told AFP that the consulate called in law enforcement after a witness saw “a man enter carrying a grenade or an explosive belt.”

An AFP journalist said the whole neighborhood around the consulate in the capital’s 16th district had been closed off and a heavy police presence was in place.

Traffic was temporarily suspended on two metro lines that pass through stops close to the consulate, Paris transport company RATP said.

Iran’s embassy and consulate in the French capital share the same building, but have two different entrances on separate streets.

The incident came with tensions running high in the Middle East as Israel reportedly launched a heavily anticipated reprisal strike overnight for an Iranian attack on Israel days earlier, defying international pressure to stand down.

There was however no suggestion of any link.

Facing court

The office of the Paris prosecutor confirmed that the same man was due to appear in court on Monday over a fire at the diplomatic mission in September 2023.

A lower court had handed him an eight-month suspended sentence and prohibited him from entering the area around the consulate for two years and carrying weapons.

But he is appealing the verdict.

At the time, the man had claimed the action as an act of opposition to Iran’s clerical authorities as they faced the “Woman. Life. Freedom.” nationwide protests.

Reports said that the man left Iran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution and has expressed sympathy towards the former imperial regime.

France raised its national security alert to its maximum level following an attack on a concert venue in Moscow on March 22, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.

The incident at the Iranian consulate prompted the Paris embassy of the United States, Iran’s arch-foe, to issue a security alert for its citizens.

“Americans are advised to avoid the area and follow instructions from local authorities,” it said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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