The radical Islamists arrested yesterday by French police are dangerous and presented a risk to security, Interior Minister Claude Gueant told Le Parisien in an interview published today.
Two of the 19 people arrested yesterday were released, while the rest remain in custody, according to an official at the ministry. The arrests in raids across France came just over a week after a self-proclaimed jihadist was killed by police after he murdered seven people, including three Jewish children, over a nine-day shooting spree in southwestern France.
President Nicolas Sarkozy said yesterday Kalashnikov automatic weapons were found in the homes of some of those arrested. Authorities are seeking to prevent further acts of terrorism after Mohamed Merah this month shot dead three soldiers, and killed three children and a French-Israeli teacher at a Jewish school in the Toulouse area.
“There is no room in France for radicals,” Gueant told Le Parisien in the interview. The weapons seized “confirm the dangerousness of this group,” which carried out “weekly exercises that resembled military training,” he told the daily.
Gueant also said “tensions have been rising” since Merah’s killing spree, with more Jews now being the target of aggression and some Muslims also being attacked.
‘Out of Control’
“There is a tangible risk of things getting out of control,” Gueant was cited as saying.
Additional raids on extremists may take place across the country, Sarkozy said yesterday.
Sarkozy, who faces an election in about three weeks, has sought in recent days to show he’s tough on security issues. France last week decided to deny visas to four preachers who had been invited to an Islamic conference next month.
Sarkozy leads in the polls in the first round of the presidential election and has narrowed the gap in support against Socialist candidate Francois Hollande in the decisive second round.
The first round of the elections will be held on April 22 with the two winners of that vote squaring off on May 6.