French police special forces escort a radical Islamist 370.
(photo credit: Stephane Mahe/ Reuters)
PARIS – French police launched a series of raids in several cities all over the
country at dawn on Friday, arresting 19 suspected radical Islamists, authorities
President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed in an interview to Radio
Europe 1 that GIPN (French National Police Intervention Groups) commandos had
staged these early morning raids, adding that they seized weapons, among them
Some of the detainees are facing deportation from
France, he said.
“More suspected Muslim extremists will be rounded up,”
said Sarkozy, adding that the latest crackdown was a part of a larger operation
still taking place.
Interior Minister Claude Guéant, who led the raid on
Mohamed Merah’s apartment
in the southern city of Toulouse last week, explained
that “the government is determined to fight radical Islamists.”
killed seven people in three separate incidents in Toulouse, including three
Jewish children and the father of two of them in a shooting at the Ozar Hatorah
Guéant, speaking after a meeting with French Muslim religious
leaders, said that among the people arrested Friday was the head of Forsane
Alizza (Knights of Pride), an extreme Islamist organization suspected of
inciting to violence and terrorism, according to the daily Le
Mohammed Achamlane, the organization’s leader and a radical
Salafi, was arrested at his home in the northwestern town of
Forsane Alizza is suspected of ties with al- Muhajiroun, a banned
British group that justified the 9/11 attacks. The organization posted a call on
its website for “French troops to leave, without any delay nor condition, all
territories with a Muslim majority.”
The interior minister officially
dismantled Forsane Alizza at the beginning of March, before the events in
Toulouse, under suspicion that the group “spreads a theory of religiously-
motivated violence, including anti- Semitic and anti-Western
According to the Parisien
report, the government banned six
Islamist leaders from entering France for a Muslim conference expected to be
held next week in Paris.
Among the banned people is Egyptian preacher,
Sheikh Youssef al-Kardawi.
“The investigation [of Forsane Alizza] is to
be held separately from that concerning Mohamed Merah,” Guéant told Le
“Tension is higher. For the past two years, acts of
anti-Semitism were on the decline. But the events of the past week are
On Friday, French TV station M6 published a document of the Renseignements Généraux classified as “security of the state” concerning
The document, which dates to 2006, presents Merah as “a member of
the Islamist and radical movement, with ability to travel and furnish logistic
assistance to other militants.”
At the time, an investigation was made on
the “Toulouse group,” a jihadist group in which Mohammed Abdelkader, Merah’s
brother, was a member.
According to the document, each time Merah was in
French territory, surveillance information collected on him was sent to the
The TV report exposing the document contradicts the
declaration by a high-ranking security official last week to the daily Le
DCRI head Bernard Squarcini said that Merah “appeared on radars”
when arrested in Kandahar, Afghanistan in December 2010, while visiting as a
“tourist.” He started to be followed officially after his return from Pakistan
in spring 2011. However, the document exposed by M6 shows Merah was already
being watched in 2006.
Politicians, including extreme right wing
presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, criticized Sarkozy for the “timing of the
A recent poll for the first round of the presidential
election to be held April 22 gave Sarkozy 30 percent, 2% more than his main
rival, socialist François Hollande. However, Hollande is leading in polls for
the May 6 run-off election.