France

French police detain 13 alleged lone-wolf Islamists

Reuters/Stephane Mahe

French police have rounded up 13 people suspected of planning Islamist violence. The detainees included individuals believed to be potential “lone wolves”, like Toulouse killer Mohamed Merah, who planned to travel to Afghanistan or Pakistan.

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Three people, two men and a woman, were arrested in Roubaix, near the Belgian border shortly after 8.00 am. 

 On France 24: What is Forsane Alizza?

Earlier 10 others were detained in the southern towns of Marseille, Carpentras, Valence and Pau and in the Lot-et-Garonne department, according to police sources.

The arrests are part of the ongoing reaction to Merah’s killing spree in Toulouse and Montauban and follow the round-up of a number of suspects last Friday

Thirteen of them were charged with “criminal conspiracy connected with a terrorist enterprise” and “illegal possession and transport of weapons” on Tuesday and nine kept behind bars.

They are believed to be members of the banned group Forsanne Alizza and include its leader, Mohamed Achamlane.

Some of them are said to have discussed an “intellectual project” to kidnap a magistrate in Lyon without trying to carry it out.

Wednesday’s operation is not connected to Forsanne Alizza but targeted individuals who were likely to go to Afghanistan or Pakistan or who wanted to go there to pursue jihad, police sources told AFP.

“They do not belong to a network. These are isolated individuals most of whom have a profile like Mohamed Merah’s,” one told the Paris-based news agency.

The mother of one of the men arrested in Roubaix told journalists that all he had done was go to Morocco on holiday.

Most opposition candidates in France’s presidential election welcomed the clampdown but some hinted that it was being exploited to boost incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’s chances of reelection.

  • “Maybe we should have done more, earlier,” commented Socialist contender François Hollande;
  • “Groupings or gangs that could be suspected” of plotting violence should be controlled or banned, judged Modem candidate François Bayrou, but he added that it is “more astonishing” that the arrests took place “in front of the cameras and specially invited journalists”;
  • “Nice timing,” was the succinct comment of hard-left champion Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

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