Europe

Paris prosecutors detain 16-year-old over hoax hostage alert

Officer with gun Image copyright Francois Mori
Image caption Police surrounded Saint-Leu church in central Paris after receiving the alert

A 16-year-old boy has been detained as part of an investigation into a hoax hostage alert that prompted a major police intervention at a church in the centre of the French capital.

A spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor identified the suspect only by his first name, Dylan.

The boy had just turned 16, Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre told AP, without giving further details.

The incident took place at Saint-Leu church in Les Halles neighbourhood.

The French government said they would be seeking financial compensation against "perpetrators of these acts" for wasting the time and money of security services and scaring the public unnecessarily.

"There is no reason that taxpayers should be liable to an unnecessary expenditure of public funds," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

He added that those responsible must be punished, given the current "very high terrorist threat".

A special app-based public alert system created after the deadly attacks in Paris last year had also been activated.

Police had dispatched a helicopter and barricaded the area around the church following a distress call.

But it turned out to be a false alarm, the interior ministry later said.

French magazine, Obs reported (in French) that it had made contact with two teenage hackers who boasted online after staging the hoax, commonly referred to as "swatting" - when hoaxers make anonymous threats to trigger a response from police and SWAT teams.

The hackers, 16 and 17, said they just wanted to create a buzz and had decided to use a church as their location in order to make an impact similar to recent terrorist attack in a northern French church where a priest was killed.

The magazine also quoted the two as saying they were admirers of the French-Israeli hacker, Gregory Chelli, alias, Ulcan.

France has suffered a series of deadly attacks in recent years claimed by so-called Islamic State that have left dozens dead.

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