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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

France Detains 3 in Moscow Metro Plot

French police have detained three Chechens after receiving a tip from Russian law enforcement agencies that they might be plotting bombings in the Moscow metro.

Russian authorities suspect the trio of bankrolling Ruslan Ozniyev, a Chechen man arrested 20 months ago in Moscow on suspicion of planning attacks in the city, Kommersant reported Saturday.

“French law enforcement agencies targeted them after receiving intelligence from the Russian side,” an unidentified Russian law enforcement official told Interfax on Friday.

The names of the detainees have not been released. But French authorities said Friday that they — like Ozniyev, who has political asylum in France — lived in the city of Le Mans in northwestern France. The city has a large Chechen diaspora.

The three Chechens are suspected of conspiracy to prepare acts of terrorism, a spokesman for a French anti-terrorist prosecutor's magistrate said, adding that there was no direct evidence against them, Reuters reported.

Two men remain detained, while the third has been released on bail. The arrests were made on July 5 but only announced late last week.

A fourth suspect was questioned and released without charges being filed.

Ozniyev, 27, an ethnic Ingush born in Grozny, was arrested in November 2008 carrying a bag with a gun, explosives and a metro map with a note indicating that Moscow's police headquarters was located near one of the stations, Kommersant said.

This could echo a plan carried out in the Moscow metro on March 29, when twin suicide blasts killed 40 people. One of the explosions took place in the Lubyanka metro station, the stop just below the headquarters of the Federal Security Service.

The FSB said that Ozniyev picked up the bag with explosives at the request of an associate of Doku Umarov, the Chechen rebel leader who claimed responsibility for the March metro bombings, and spent the whole day riding the metro, Kommersant reported.

“He was looking for the places with the most passengers and to use the information he collected to plant bombs,” an investigation source told the newspaper.

Ozniyev said he was unaware of the contents of the bag, which he said he had been asked to pick up, the report said, citing law enforcement officials. He also said he was only passing time in the metro and had not marked any stations on the map.

It was unclear Sunday why the arrests in France were only made 20 months after Ozniyev's detention. His lawyer told Kommersant that the police were likely investigating contacts found on his cell phone.

Russian authorities believe that Ozniyev left his family to join the Umarov-led insurgency in 2004, but then moved in with relatives in Le Mans in 2006, Kommersant said. In 2007, he traveled to Moscow, where the FSB implicated him in a plot to assassinate Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov in an explosion, but it pressed no charges and let him return to France.