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 French Ministry of the Interior said.
Intelligence officers arrested 40-year-old Kristian Vikernes at dawn at his home in a village in the central Correze region, along with his French wife, Marie Cachet, 25.
The ministry said Vikernes was “close to the neo-Nazi movement” and could have been preparing a “major terrorist act.”
Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik had sent him the manifesto he published online just before he started his killing spree on July 22, 2011, the ministry said.
French Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls conceded that they had as yet identified “no target, no plan,” but intelligence chiefs had decided it was important “to act before and not afterwards.”
Vikernes is a black metal musician notorious in Norway for having stabbed a fellow musician to death in 1993.
He was sentenced to 21 years in prison for the murder of Oeystein Aarseth, known as Euronymous, who was the guitarist in their group, Mayhem.
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.
Released after serving 16 years for the killing, Vikernes eventually settled in France in 2010. Police arrested him on Tuesday in the village of Salon-la-Tour.
“The stay in prison probably made me a little more extreme, in every way,” he said in a 2010 interview with magazine Guitar World.
That same year, he called on people to vote for Marine le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, on his blog.
Vikernes, who also goes by the name “Varg,” which is Norwegian for “wolf,” had been under surveillance for several years.
However, 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 five long-range weapons at their home, including four .22 caliber long rifles.
Explaining the decision to arrest Vikernes, Valls said: “The DCRI [French domestic intelligence service] considered that messages he had posted on the Internet expressed huge violence.”
“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,” he added.
In a statement on the ministry’s Web site, Valls said Breivik had sent Vikernes his extremist manifesto shortly before killing 77 people in two separate attacks in Oslo.
The second anniversary of Breivik’s murders falls on Monday next week.
The initial probe in France has labeled Vikernes — who investigators say posted anti-Semitic and xenophobic messages online — as dangerous, a police source told reporters.
Salon-la-Tour Mayor Jean-Claude Chauffour told reporters that Vikernes had settled with his family a year ago in a rented house, away from the village.
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 a 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 do not go to school, the mayor said.
Yves Langoile, the couple’s neighbor, told media that Vikernes was “polite” and “appeared to be normal and nice,” and close with his children.