In a series of dawn raids across France, elite police arrested 19 suspected radical Islamists. The France 24 news agency is reporting that the arrests occurred in Nantes, Le Man, Paris and Toulouse, the city where Mohamed Merah was killed after he shot three Jewish children and a rabbi outside of a school earlier this month.
Speaking with Europe 1 radio, French President Nicholas Sarkozy said: “It’s our duty to guarantee the security of the French people. We have no choice. It’s absolutely indispensable.”
The raids occurred the day after Merah was buried in Toulouse. He was killed on March 22 by a police sniper after a lengthy stand off at his apartment. As the BBC reports, French police agency DCRI has received criticism for a lack of vigilance that allowed a radical Islamist like Merah to perpetrate murder. This series of arrests is thought to have targeted suspected Islamists who have been on the DCRI’s radar.
One of those arrested is Mohammed Achamlane, the leader of the Islamist group Forsanne Alizza (Knights of Pride), which seeks to instill Islamic rule in the country, France Soir reports. Merah has been linked to the group in media reports.
The issue of Islamic radicalism has taken centre stage in the French presidential election campaign. Initially trailing socialist contender François Hollande, Sarkozy has seen his support rise in the wake of the attacks. The latest poll conducted by the CSA put Sarkozy’s support at 30 per cent—versus 26 per cent for Hollande—for the first round of voting on April 22, Agence France-Presse reports.