French Police Round Up Suspected Islamist ExtremistsWorld | March 30, 2012, Friday // 15:31| views
Protesters march behind a French flag during a rally organized by human rights organizations to show unity between different religious communities following the shootings in Toulouse. Photo by BGNES
The French police have arrested 19 suspected Islamists and seized weapons in pre-dawn raids across France, part of a crackdown following a series of killings by a gunman who claimed he had a mandate to wage jihad.
Among those arrested were Mohammed Achamlane, leader of Forsane Alizza, a Salafi Muslim group that was dissolved by the government earlier this year on suspicion of having a violent agenda, reported Le Figaro daily, as cited by DPA.
Some of the arrests took place in Toulouse, where gunman Mohamed Merah, who was shot dead in a police siege on March 22, carried out two of his three shooting attacks, which killed seven people in total, and where he was buried Thursday.
Confirming the arrests on Europe 1 radio, President Nicolas Sarkozy said they were "not only linked to Toulouse" but to "a form of radical Islamism" and would "continue."
"There will be other operations that will continue and which will allow us to deport people who have no business being in the country," he said.
Police also made arrests in Lyon, Nice and Marseille and seized weapons. Sarkozy said a number of AK-47 assault rifles had been seized.
The revelation that Merah was on the radar of French intelligence services, after having travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, prompted criticism of the authorities for not taking action against him sooner.
His brother, Abdelkader Merah, who has been charged with complicity in the killings, was investigated in 2007 over links to a group supplying would-be jihadists to Iraq.
Sarkozy told the police last week to conduct renewed assessments of the risk posed by individuals thought to have sympathies or connections with radical Islam.
The government has also barred several prominent foreign Muslim clerics from travelling to a conference in France next month.
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