France arrests suspected Islamists in Mali rebels probe

Tue Feb 5, 2013 10:43am EST
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By Gérard Bon

PARIS (Reuters) - French police arrested four suspected Islamist militants near Paris on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the recruitment of volunteers by al Qaeda insurgents in Mali, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said.

France's intervention in Mali to rid its former colony of Islamist fighters has prompted the authorities to increase security against possible reprisal attacks on its interests in mainland France and abroad.

Anti-terrorism judge Marc Trevidic, who is in charge of the operation, told Reuters last month that France needed more robust local policing, better intelligence sharing and the ability to infiltrate small radical Islamist groups if it hopes to fight new security threats on its soil. [ID:nL5N0AW0LN].

Analysts say the insurgency that seized the north of Mali is paving the way for attacks on France as more French Muslims of African origin were finding a cause in the conflict.

"France is really being singled out at the moment," said Anne Giudicelli, consultant with national security specialists Terrorisc.

"It's being accused of wanting to occupy Muslim territory and that could clearly push some individuals to take action, or encourage others to build up a network," she told Reuters.

A police source said three of the four men arrested on Tuesday were Franco-Congolese and one was Malian.

Valls said the arrests had come after a long investigation into al Qaeda recruitment rings led by Trevidic.   Continued...

French soldiers patrol on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris as part of the "Vigipirate" heightened security plan January 21, 2013 following the intervention of French troops in Mali. REUTERS/Charles Platiau