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French police raid Shiite Islamic centre in ‘anti-terror’ probe

Philippe Huguen, AFP | Policemen spread around the Centre Zahra France religious association in Grande Synthe near Dunkirk on October 2, 2018.

Some 200 police officers raided the headquarters in northern France of a Shiite Islamic association and the homes of its leaders who are suspected of supporting "terrorist organisations", security sources said.

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The operation against the little-known Centre Zahra France in Grande-Synthe, a suburb of the port city of Dunkirk, was staged as part of the "prevention of terrorism" procedures, regional authorities said in a statement.

A security source told AFP that 11 people had been arrested, while French authorities also froze the financial assets of the centre headed by Yahia Gouasmi, who is known for his anti-Zionist views and links to Iran.

Police have been closely following the activities of the Centre Zahra "because of the strong support by its leaders for several terrorist organisations and in favour of movements backing ideas that are contrary to the values" of France.

On its website, the association says its purpose since its foundation in 2009 has been "to make known the message of Islam through the eyes of the Prophet and his family".

Grande-Synthe is known as a magnet for migrants seeking to cross the English Channel to Britain, and as a draw for smuggling activity that often thrives where migrants congregate.

>> Webdocumentary: Grande-Synthe, the humanitarian camp that France didn't want

It was unclear whether Tuesday’s arrests were linked to a suspected plot in France to bomb a gathering of Iranian opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in June.

Police swooped on six people – including an Iranian diplomat – in Belgium, France and Germany after authorities revealed the alleged plot.

France is still on high alert after a wave of jihadist attacks since 2015 from which 246 people have lost their lives.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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