Policemen stand next to the "Centre Zahra France" religious association in Grande Synthe near Dunkirk early on October 2, 2018 during an operation of "terrorism prevention".
(photo credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP)
French police raided the premises of a Muslim club before dawn on Tuesday, as well as the homes of members of the club, in a swoop that the local government prefect's office said was prompted by serious suspicions of pro-Islamist militancy.
The operation involving some two hundred police began around 6 a.m. and targeted a club known as Centre Zahra France and 12 of its members in an area called Grande Synthe, near Dunkirk and not far from Calais on France's northern coast
"This is a counter-terrorism operation," read a statement from the prefect's office.
"The activities of Centre Zahra France are under particularly close watch given its leaders' clear support for several terrorist organizations and movements espousing ideas contrary to (French) republican values," it added.
The Centre has ties to Hezbollah and Iranian cells in France, Le Monde
reported, and has been a source of "virulent anti-Zionist propaganda."
In 2009, the Centre's founder, Yahia Gouasmi, created an anti-Zionist political party (Parti Antisioniste) that ran in the European elections and included the notorious comedian Dieudonne, who has been widely accused of antisemitism, and far-right polemicist Alain Soral, Le Monde
The Centre published a column written by the Parti Antisioniste, including one calling the Islamic State a "Nazi (social-Zionist) project," according to Le Figaro
France, home to Europe's largest Muslim community, remains on maximum security alert after attacks over recent years
in which Islamist militants and assailants inspired by militant groups such as Islamic State have killed close to 250 people.
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