PARIS, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Police arrested five Chechens in southern France on suspicion of preparing an attack, a police source said on Tuesday, nearly two weeks after Islamist militants killed 17 people during three days of violence in the French capital.
The source said four of them were arrested in Montpellier or nearby, and a fifth in Beziers. Midi Libre newspaper reported a cache of explosives was found during police searches.
The case has not been passed onto the anti-terrorist section of the Paris prosecutor's office, a judicial source said. Local TV chain LCI said organized crime and score settling between Chechen gangs was at the source of the suspects' plan.
France remains on security alert after gunmen stormed the Paris offices of the Charle Hebdo newspaper on Jan. 7 and killed 12 people, in what they said was revenge for cartoons it had published mocking Islam. A further five people were killed during two further days of violence that shocked France.
Hundreds of thousands of people protested in Russia's Chechnya region on Monday against what its Kremlin-backed leader called "vulgar and immoral" cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad published by Charlie Hebdo. (Reporting by Nicolas Bertin; Additional reporting by Thomas Grove in Grozny; Writing by Andrew Callus and James Regan)