Suspected terrorist cell raided by French police

26th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 26 (AFP) - French police detained nine people during a series of dawn raids west of Paris early Monday, in what they said was a crackdown on suspected Islamist terrorist activities.

PARIS, Sept 26 (AFP) - French police detained nine people during a series of dawn raids west of Paris early Monday, in what they said was a crackdown on suspected Islamist terrorist activities.

Among those being held was Safe Bourada, who was released from prison in 2003 after serving five years for helping organise a series of bomb attacks in France in 1995 for the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA).

"The men are suspected of intending to carry out attacks in France. There was a conspiracy and logistical activity, but no identified project," officials close to the investigation told AFP.

Seven of the detainees were described as the targets of the police operation, and the two others happened to be with them when the round-up took place after dawn in the Yvelines and Eure departments to the west of the capital.

All were taken to the headquarters of the domestic intelligence service the DST in Paris, where they can be held for up to four days without charges.

A team equipped to deal with nuclear, bacteriological and chemical materials was dispatched to one of their homes, in the town of Trappes near Versailles.

Officials said the men were members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an armed Algerian formation that grew out of the GIA and has links to the Al-Qaeda network.

The GSPC has threatened to carry out attacks in France and is seen as a credible danger by intelligence officials, who have warned since the July suicide bombings in London that France must also consider itself a potential target.

The investigation leading to the arrests started in February 2003 when Bourada was released from prison and placed under surveillance, officials said.

At his 1997 trial Bourada had been described as an important link in the GIA network which planted a series of bombs between July and October 1995. In the first and most deadly attack, nine people died in an explosion in the Saint Michel regional express network railway station in Paris.

Investigators said he was a link with GIA leader Ali Touchent -- also known as Tarek -- who was believed to have ordered the 1995 attacks from Algeria. Bourada also had contacts with Rachid Ramda, the group's alleged financier whom France tried in vain to have extradited from Britain over a period of several years.

There was a breakthrough two months ago after what the sources called the "lucky arrest" of a group of men who were holding up a Moroccan prostitute. Investigators established that these men had links with former members of the GIA.

At that point the leading anti-terrorist judge, Jean-Louis Bruguière, opened a judicial investigation into "criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise," as well as "possession of fake documents, assuming a false identity, carrying weapons, and extortion."

The GIA was the main anti-government force in the long Islamist insurrection in Algeria during the 1990s. The GSPC was formed after it split.

Last Monday, anti-terrorist police arrested six men in the northern Paris suburbs suspected of recruiting volunteers to fight against US forces in Iraq. They were all released without charge after four days of questioning.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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