Some may call it a right decision but no doubt, others will call the latest arrest of Islamists in France a biased racial profiling in the name of democracy.
A policeman searches a house in Coueron, Western France, on Friday as part of dawn raids in several French cities. [Photo/Agencies]
French police swooped down on suspected Islamist networks on Friday, arresting 19 people as President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed a crackdown would continue after an extremist gunman’s killing spree.
The arrests took place in several cities including Toulouse, where Mohamed Merah was shot dead by police last week after a series of cold-blooded shootings in southwestern France that left seven dead.
Sarkozy said the arrests targeted “radical Islam” and that the trauma in France after the shootings in Toulouse and Montauban was somewhat like that felt in the United States after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.
“What must be understood is that the trauma of Montauban and Toulouse is profound for our country, a little – I don’t want to compare the horrors a little like the trauma that followed the USA and in New york after the September 11, 2001 attacks,” he told Europe 1 radio.
Agents from France’s DCRI domestic intelligence agency working with anti-terror and elite police units carried out the dawn raids in Toulouse, Nantes, Marseille, Lyon, Nice, Paris and other areas.
The operation “is not linked only to Toulouse, it’s on all of French territory. It is in full accordance with the law”, Sarkozy said.
He said Friday’s operation was only the start.
“We have some extremely precise questions to ask a certain number of people and what happened this morning will continue,” said Sarkozy, in the thick of a heated campaign for France’s two-round April-May presidential election.
“There will be other operations that will continue and will also allow us to expel from our national territory a certain number of people,” he added.
Sarkozy also defended France’s decision this week to bar some Muslim preachers from entering the country, saying: “We don’t want people who advocate values contrary to the republic to be invited to our territory.”
Police sources said the raids were “not directly linked” to the Toulouse shootings but targeted at extremists networks.
Police said Kalashnikov assault rifles and other weapons were seized during the raids.
Among those arrested was Mohammed Achamlane, the head of a suspected extremist group called Forsane Alizza, the sources said, with three Kalashnikovs, a Glock pistol and a grenade were seized from his home.
The arrests came a day after Merah, who was shot dead by a police sniper on March 22 at the end of a 32-hour siege at his flat in Toulouse, was buried in the city under heavy police watch.