French police crack down on radical Islamists

Following the Toulouse affair, police commandos arrest 19 suspected radical Islamists throughout France.

French police special forces escort a radical Islamist 370 (photo credit: Stephane Mahe/ Reuters)
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 announced.
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 Kalashnikov rifles.
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.”
Merah 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 school.
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 Parisien.
Mohammed Achamlane, the organization’s leader and a radical Salafi, was arrested at his home in the northwestern town of Nantes.
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 rhetoric.”
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 Parisien.
“Tension is higher. For the past two years, acts of anti-Semitism were on the decline. But the events of the past week are worrying.”
On Friday, French TV station M6 published a document of the Renseignements Généraux classified as “security of the state” concerning Merah.
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 special services.
The TV report exposing the document contradicts the declaration by a high-ranking security official last week to the daily Le Monde.
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 Friday raids.”
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.