One dead, 11 arrested in French anti-terror raids
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French police were questioning 11 members of a suspected terrorist cell on Saturday after carrying out a series of raids across the country. Another suspect was shot dead in the city of Strasbourg after opening fire on officers.
A suspected terrorist was killed and eleven others were arrested in a series of police raids in cities across France on Saturday.
The operation was part of a nationwide anti-terror operation by France's security forces directed at a suspected network of Muslim extremists believed to be behind an attack on a Jewish grocery store last month.
Police have revealed that DNA found on a grenade thrown at the kosher shop had led them to the suspected jihadist cell.
Police storm suspects home
The DNA belonged to Jeremy Sidney, who was shot dead by police after he opened fire on officers when they stormed his home in Strasbourg at around 6am on Saturday.
Strasbourg prosecutor Patrick Poirret said Sidney was "very determined with probably the ambition to die a martyr, and had emptied the chamber" of his revolver at the police before being shot dead.
Poirret said that when police entered Sidney's home, he was standing armed with a .357 magnum and fired at them, prompting them to return fire.
France’s cabinet is reviewing a new anti-terrorism bill targeting French citizens who travel abroad – particularly to Pakistan or Afghanistan – for terrorism training, the interior ministry reported in late September.
“Young people from our very own neighbourhoods may be affected by this ideology of hate through the Internet, through trips to countries like Afghanistan or Pakistan”, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said in an interview with French television channel, France 2.
A source close to the issue told AFP that the bill allows authorities to prosecute French citizens who return to the country after “having committed an act of terrorism abroad, or who travel overseas, particularly to the Afghan or Pakistan region, to train in terrorism camps with the intention of coming back to France”.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Speaking after the raids the country's Interior Minister Manuel Valls told TF1 viewers that there was a "threat from terrorism in France".
The operation also saw Police swoop simultaneously in other cities across the country, including the Mediterranean resorts of Nice and Cannes.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said all the arrested men were French, adding that police were still looking for suspects. AP news agency reported that all the young men had recently converted to Islam.
After the raids, President Francois Hollande said: “The state is determined to protect the French people against any terrorist threat.”
French media reported the arrested suspects had a “list of objectives” and police were trying to determine how advanced their plans were.
Alarm in the Jewish community
The firebombing of the Jewish store on September 19 was carried out on the same day a French satirical paper published crude caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed and while anti-Western protests were growing against an anti-Islam film.
One victim was slightly injured in the attack, which caused alarm among the city’s Jewish community.
Moshe Cohen-Sabban, a local Jewish community leader in Sarcelles, said after the incident that there were no "special" religious tensions in the working-class area with a population of about 60,000 and large numbers of Muslims and Jews, many of the latter immigrants from North Africa in the 1960s and their descendants.
But the council representing Jewish institutions in France (CRIF) said it feared that the incident in Sarcelles was related to the violence surrounding the anti-Islam film. Israel's ambassador to France, Yossi Gal, condemned it as an "anti-Semitic attack".
(FRANCE 24 with wires)