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10 MORE ISLAMISTS ARRESTED IN FRANCE

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Police in France have conducted new pre-dawn raids, on Wednesday 04/04/2012, on Islamist suspects in the wake of the multiple killings by gunman Mohammed Merah. At least 10 people were arrested as police conducted operations in Marseille, Roubaix, Carpentras and a number of other locations as 13 people arrested in raids last week face terrorism charges (see – Arrests 03.30.12).

Most of Wednesday’s raids were in the south and south-west, notably in Marseille but also in Carpentras, Valence and Pau, police sources told Agence France-Presse news agency.

There was also a raid in Roubaix, close to the Belgian border (see – Roubaix Gang). The raids were organised by the DCRI intelligence agency and carried out by elite Raid and GIPN commandos. One police source said: “Those arrested have a similar profile to Mohamed Merah. They are isolated individuals, who are self-radicalised.”

The police source said the suspects were tracked on Islamist forums expressing extreme views and said they were preparing to travel to areas including Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Sahel belt to wage jihad (holy war). Some of those arrested had already been and returned to France, the source added.

The operation comes less than a week after raids that targeted men who are believed to be associated with a radical group called Forsane Alizza, which was banned last month.

On Monday, the French interior ministry announced the expulsion of five radical Islamic preachers as part of the crackdown (see – 5 Imams 04.03.12). Security has become a major issue in the election campaign, as Mr Sarkozy battles to overcome his main rival, Francois HOllande.

Latest opinion polls suggest the rivals are neck-and-neck in the first round of voting on 22 April, with Mr Sarkozy continuing to close the gap on Mr Hollande in the widely expected run-off vote on 6 May.

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