Islamic gangsters 'served in Bosnia'

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Paris - In another sign that a gang wiped out by police may have had radical Islamic links, a French newspaper said yesterday the French Muslim convert who led it served in a Bosnian fundamentalist unit.

Police commandos stormed the gang's hideout in a Muslim ghetto of Roubaix in northern France on 29 March, killing four members. Two others fled and clashed with Belgian police. One was killed and the other wounded and captured. The survivor is a Frenchman of Moroccan origin. A seventh suspect, an Algerian aged 54, was arrested in Roubaix.

Three of the dead were of Arab origin and the two others were French converts to Islam. Police said Christophe Caze, 27, the one killed in Belgium, was the gang leader.

Citing investigators, the Paris weekly Journal du Dimanche said Caze enrolled as a medic in a force of foreign Muslim fundamentalists fighting for Bosnia's Muslim-led government. A medical student, he served in 1994 and 1995 near Zenica, in central Bosnia. Citing Caze's relatives, it said he married a young Bosnian woman and had a child. The other convert, Lionel Dumont, 25, served in Bosnia as a truck driver for aid convoys.

The two men and the others worshipped at the Dawa Mosque, near the gang's hideout. The mosque was visited by leaders of the Islamic Salvation Front, whose armed wing is battling the Algerian government.

Tracts from a radical rebel force in Algeria, automatic weapons and explosives were found in the hideout.