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France arrests Norwegian neo-Nazi over terror plot fears

A photo taken on July 16, 2013 shows cars parked outside the house of convicted killer, Kristian Vikernes
A photo taken on July 16, 2013 shows cars parked outside the house of Norwegian neo-Nazi black metal rocker and convicted killer, Kristian Vikernes, in the hamlet of Las Fleyras near the village of Salon La Tour outside the central French city of Limoges.

A Norwegian neo-Nazi black metal musician and convicted killer was arrested in France on Tuesday over fears he may have been preparing a "major terrorist act", the interior ministry said.

Kristian Vikernes, who the ministry said once had a link with Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, was arrested by intelligence officers at dawn at his home in the central village of Salon-la-Tour, along with his French wife Marie Cachet, 25.

The ministry said the 40-year-old, who was "close to the neo-Nazi movement", could have been preparing a "major terrorist act" although Interior Minister Manuel Valls later admitted that "no target, no plan" had yet been identified.

Vikernes, who goes by the stage name "Varg", is a notorious black metal musician in Norway, known for stabbing to death a fellow musician and setting fire to several churches in the early 1990s.

Musicians and fans of black metal -- an extreme sub-genre of heavy metal -- often express anti-Christian views and were involved in the burning of more than 50 churches in Norway between 1992 and 1996.

Vikernes was sentenced to 21 years in prison following the murder of the musician, the so-called Euronymous.

He was released after serving 16 years, and later came to settle in France in 2010.

"The stay in prison probably made me a little more extreme, in every way," he said in a 2010 interview with the magazine Guitar World.

That same year on his blog, he called on people to vote for Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right National Front party.

He had been under surveillance for several years, but anti-terrorism authorities in Paris opened a probe into the father-of-three at the beginning of the month after his wife purchased weapons -- albeit legally as she has a permit.

Officers seized several weapons at their home on Tuesday, including four 22 Caliber Long Rifles.

Valls said authorities had decided it was important to arrest Vikernes "to act before and not afterwards."

"The DCRI (French domestic intelligence service) considered that messages he had posted on the Internet expressed huge violence," he said.

Kristian 'Varg' Vikernes, leader of the black metal band Burzum and convicted murderer, in a photo from April 25, 1994
Kristian "Varg" Vikernes, leader of the black metal band Burzum, neo-nazi sympathizer and convicted murderer, in a photo from April 25, 1994.

"The purchase of weapons and cartridges by his wife showed that a terrorist plan was possible. To know more, to know what this plan could be... the DCRI considered it was important to arrest and question him."

Vikernes once had a link with Breivik, who is being held in isolation in a high security prison near Oslo for killing 77 people in twin attacks in 2011, Valls said.

The notorious mass killer had sent him a long manifesto that he had worked on for years and which he published just before the Norway attacks, the minister added.

The initial probe has labelled Vikernes -- who investigators say posted anti-Semitic and xenophobic messages online -- as "dangerous", a police source told AFP.

The mayor of Salon-la-Tour told AFP that Vikernes had settled in a rented house a year ago with his family, away from the village.

Jean-Claude Chauffour said the couple met several years ago when Cachet was graduating from high school.

"He doesn't speak French very well," Chauffour said, adding that the family had three children and Cachet was pregnant with her fourth. It is unclear whether all the children are the musician's.

The young woman's mother appears to have taken care of their children, who did not go to school, the mayor said.

Meanwhile a shocked neighbour of the couple, Yves Langoile, told AFP that Vikernes was "polite" and "appeared to be normal and nice", and close to his children.