French police arrest suspect over Mont Saint Michel scare

Tourists were blocked from entering the island during the lockdown

French police have arrested a man accused of threatening to attack police at Mont Saint Michel, causing a scare that led to the evacuation of one of the country's busiest tourist sites, a security source said Monday.

The UNESCO world heritage site, off the coast of Normandy in northwest France, was shut down for several hours Sunday after a tourist guide reported a man made threatening comments on a bus carrying visitors to the rocky islet.

A senior local official said the man then got into a fight with a cafe owner, during which he made more threats against security forces.

The source said a suspect in the case, a 36-year-old man, was arrested late on Sunday on a motorway near the Normandy city of Caen.

The man, who was known to authorities for drug trafficking and for driving without a licence, was first spotted at a motorway petrol station "where he boasted of being behind the threats", the source said.

Tourists were blocked from entering the island during the lockdown as around 50 police conducted a house-to-house search.

Holidaymakers were evacuated from hotels and the abbey was shut.

Mont Saint Michel, a place of pilgrimage in medieval times, lies about a kilometre (half a mile) offshore and is attached to the mainland by a bridge. Its stunning monastery, perched atop a rock, draws more than two million visitors a year.

The evacuation came with France still on high alert following a string of Islamic extremist attacks since 2015 that have killed more than 240 people.

Security forces have repeatedly been the target of attacks, most recently during a shooting spree and supermarket hostage-taking in the southern city of Carcassonne and nearby Trebes.