French seize Algerian militants

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FRENCH police detained at least 70 Algerian Muslim fundamentalists living in France yesterday after French residents in Algeria were threatened with death.

Police units, accompanied by members of the Renseignements Generaux, the equivalent of Britain's Special Branch, the DST counter-

espionage service and border police, swooped on known sympathisers of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), in an operation which began at 6am.

Those detained were being questioned by the anti-terrorist section of the prosecutor's office, the Interior Ministry said. There was no immediate indication of whether they would face criminal charges or deportation proceedings. If deported to Algeria, they would face certain prison.

The raids followed reports over the weekend that the Interior Ministry had planned a similar operation for last week but had called it off after three French consular workers, kidnapped in Algiers on 23 October, were released unharmed.

However, one of the hostages was freed with a note saying that French residents in Algeria had one month in which to leave the country or face assassination. This has since been backed up by two other similar threats, at least one extending the menace to all foreigners, recalling the choice of 'the suitcase or the coffin' faced by the French in Algeria during the 1954-62 Algerian war.

The French government appealed to the 25,000 French expatriates registered in Algeria, and whose presence there was not essential, to leave. Seven foreigners have been kidnapped and killed in Algeria since September.

Yesterday's operation, stretching from Britanny to the Cote d'Azur and involving a swoop on mosques frequented by fundamentalists in Paris' 18th arrondissement, seemed to be aimed at neutralising the FIS in France. The FIS, banned in Algeria, is estimated to have a hard core of up to 100 militants in France.

The French operation was certain to delight the Algerian government which has accused FIS leaders in France of collecting funds and organising attacks inside Algeria. Algiers has been pressing France to take action against the FIS on French soil.

Charles Pasqua, the Gaullist Interior Minister, warned Muslim fundamentalists in France on Friday that they should be careful not to indulge in illegal activity. Mr Pasqua was also interior minister in 1986 when an Iranian- trained Muslim fundamentalist network killed 13 people and maimed many more in a series of bomb attacks. Most members of that organisation were Tunisians or Moroccans.

Among people detained yesterday were Moussa Kraouche, the president of the Algerian Brotherhood in France, considered a FIS front organisation, and Djaffair el-Houari, another of its leaders.

Rabah Kebir, a FIS leader said to be in an undisclosed European capital, said in a telephone interview on radio that France was supporting a dictatorship in Algeria 'against its own principles'.

TEHRAN - Unidentified attackers hurled grenades at the French embassy and the Air France office in Tehran yesterday in apparent reprisal for France's admission of an Iranian opposition leader, Reuter reports. Little damage was caused.

Telephone callers to the embassy and Iran's Irna news agency said the attacks were a warning to France for letting in Maryam Rajavi, a leader of Iraq-based Iranian Mujahideen Khalq.