French authorities have arrested four Islamic militants in a suburb of Paris. French officials believe the four were about to carry out a terrorist attack.

The raid on the apartment in the Paris suburb of La Courneuve was ordered by France's leading anti-terrorism magistrate. The DST, the police in charge of internal security, had had the men under surveillance for some time.

In the apartment, police found two flasks of chemicals, one of which is reported to be extremely explosive when heated. The chemicals are being analyzed at a French laboratory that specializes in antidotes to chemical and biological weapons, to see if they could have been used in a bomb or as a chemical weapon.

Police also found 25,000 euros in cash, a computer and Islamist literature.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said that this was not a petty affair.

The four men, all reported to be of North African origin, are said to have spent time in both Afghanistan and Chechnya, and one of them has ties to Rabah Kadre, who is under indictment for terrorism by Britain.

Rabah Kadre, also known as 'Toufik,' has links to militants arrested in Germany and accused of plotting attacks in the French city of Strasbourg two years ago.