France seizes 17 Islamist suspects in dawn raids after Toulouse killings

 

Paris

French police arrested 17 suspected Islamist extremists in a series of dawn raids across the country yesterday, a week after the death of the Toulouse killer Mohamed Merah.

President Nicolas Sarkozy said the operation was intended to calm anxieties aroused by what he described as “France’s 9/11” – Merah’s reign of terror in south-west France.

Some opposition politicians suggested that, au contraire, Mr Sarkozy was “playing with” French fears of radical Islam for electoral reasons.

Police said that none of the arrests – in Toulouse, Nantes, Lyon, the greater Paris area and the Côte d’Azur – were linked directly to Merah’s attacks in the Toulouse area which killed seven.

The Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, said the detainees were “people who boasted on the internet that they were mujahadins with an extremely radical ideology – an ideology of violence”.

A number of weapons, including Kalashnikov rifles, were reported to have been seized. Initially police arrested 19 suspects, but two were later freed. President Sarkozy promised similar raids in the days ahead “which will allow us to expel … a certain number of people who have no reason to be here.”

Those arrested in Nantes included Mohammed Achamlane, leader of Forsane Alizza (Horsemen of Pride), a radical Islamist group banned by the government last month.

President Sarkozy appealed for “national unity” and no anti-Islamic feeling after the Toulouse killings. He has, however, campaigned increasingly stridently in recent days against “uncontrolled immigration” and the alleged softness on security issues of the Socialist candidate, François Hollande, his main rival in the presidential election.

Opinion polls suggest the Toulouse killings have helped to strengthen Mr Sarkozy’s position, giving him a narrow lead in most polls before the first round of the elections three weeks from tomorrow. Mr Hollande remains favourite to win the second-round run-off on 6 May.

The Socialist candidate, presumably unwilling to give Mr Sarkozy new ammunition, made no comment on the arrests. The candidate of the harder left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon accused Mr Sarkozy of “playing with fear”. Steeve Briois, secretary general of the far-right National Front, said the arrests were an “electoral fishing expedition”.

Separately, President Sarkozy suffered a legal blow yesterday. An appeal court in Bordeaux refused to release from custody Patrice de Maistre, the former financial manager of the L’Oréal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt. Mr Maistre was arrested last week by a judge investigating allegations that Mr Sarkozy took €400,000 in illegal campaign contributions from Ms Bettencourt in 2007.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn