France detains 11 suspected 'recruits' to war in Iraq

26th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 26 (AFP) - A total of 11 suspected Islamic militants have been detained in Paris this week by intelligence agents who believe they have foiled an operation to send volunteers to fight against the US army in Iraq, officials said Wednesday.

PARIS, Jan 26 (AFP) - A total of 11 suspected Islamic militants have been detained in Paris this week by intelligence agents who believe they have foiled an operation to send volunteers to fight against the US army in Iraq, officials said Wednesday.

Four young men arrested early Wednesday were being held at the headquarters of the domestic intelligence service DST, along with six of the seven people detained on Monday in a high-immigration neighbourhood in the northeast of the capital.

One of two women detained Monday was released Wednesday morning, police said.

The identities of the detainees were not disclosed, but officials said that eight of the nine men - all aged between 20 and 24 - were of north African origin with French nationality. The other was a French convert to Islam.

They were arrested as part of an anti-terrorist investigation launched last September after evidence emerged of a so-called "Iraqi network" recruiting Islamic militants to fight US forces there.

Le Monde newspaper reported that the detainees included the "spiritual chief" of the group - named only by his initials F.B. - who has been known to the intelligence services for several years. Another was detained at Orly airport on his return from a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Intelligence agents believe there are between 15 and 30 French nationals with the insurgents in Iraq, and that four have been killed in clashes with the US army.

The foreign intelligence service DGSE has identified a French man, named only as Fawzi D., at the head of a group of some 20 Islamic militants in Iraq, officials said.

"At the moment it would be wrong to speak of organised networks like there were with Afghanistan," said a senior official.

"But we are determined to stop young people going to make jihad in Iraq because if they come back they will have greatly enhanced prestige, and be in a position to recruit more people to the cause - or even mount terrorist operations," he said on condition of anonymity.

The nine young men detained this week have known each other since childhood and attend the same prayer-halls and sports clubs, investigators said.

They also have links with two brothers - Redouane and Boubakeur El-Hakim - who played a key role in organising recruits for Iraq. Redouane, 19, was killed in July during the US bombardment of the Sunni town of Fallujah, and Boubakeur is being held in Syria after being caught trying to cross to Iraq.

The Hakim brothers frequented a prayer-hall in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret which has been shut down. The men held this week moved around the ad-Da'wa mosque in the northeast of the capital, which officials said has become an important recruiting centre.

The other three French nationals killed in Iraq were named in the press as Tarek Ouinis, Karim - also known as Abu Salman - and Abdelhalim Badjouj.

They were killed in September and October in the so-called Sunni triangle to the north and west of Baghdad.

Security officials in Paris said considerable efforts were being expended to track militants likely to join the Islamic underground in Iraq.

"A young Frenchman of north African origin could probably avoid detection by the domestic intelligence agencies and set out for Iraq. But somewhere along the way he'd almost certainly have to use a route which we - and our friends in the region - have under surveillance," said a senior justice official.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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