Terror raids net 12 suspects in France and Italy

19th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 19, 2006 (AFP) - Anti-terrorism police arrested 12 people Wednesday in coordinated raids in France and Italy, as part of a probe into the financing of Islamic extremist groups, sources close to the investigation told AFP.

PARIS, April 19, 2006 (AFP) - Anti-terrorism police arrested 12 people Wednesday in coordinated raids in France and Italy, as part of a probe into the financing of Islamic extremist groups, sources close to the investigation told AFP.

Five suspects were arrested by French police near the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, while Italian authorities arrested seven others in Naples and Caserte in the south, and Milan and Bologna in the north, the sources said.

The suspects -- all men of Algerian origin, suspected of links to the Islamic fundamentalist Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) -- have been taken into custody, they said.

French and Italian anti-terrorism investigators suspect them of financing Islamic extremists -- particularly the GSPC -- via a range of criminal activities, including supplying forged documents to illegal immigrants, the sources said.

Searches were continuing in France and Italy Wednesday morning, according to sources in Paris, and a French diplomat in Rome.

According to the diplomat, all of the suspects are targeted by European arrest warrants.

Italian authorities started investigating the forgery operation two years ago, alerting their French colleagues when they discovered a link to criminal gangs in Marseille.

ANSA reported that false identity documents were being sent on an almost weekly basis from Naples to Marseille, on board tourist buses, to be sold in the French city.

However a source close to the case warned investigators would face a tough challenge to prove a clear link to the financing of Islamic extremism.

France stepped up its level of anti-terrorism alert after last July's bombings in London, and ministers have warned repeatedly that the country is seen as a target by Islamist militants.

Investigators take seriously a threat from the GSPC -- a movement linked to Al-Qaeda -- which in September said in a statement that France was its "enemy number one".

Italy -- which has frequently received threats from extremist groups via the Internet for maintaining its 3,000-strong military contingent in Iraq -- also stepped up security in the wake of the London bombings.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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