French Police detain 17 Islamists

The 17 people detained by French police in a crackdown on suspected Islamist networks were on Sunday remanded in custody for at least another 24 hours, a source close to the inquiry said.

Friday’s arrests were made in connection with a probe into an alleged terror plot and under French anti-terror laws the suspects can be held without charge until Tuesday.

The head of France’s Central Directorate for Domestic Intelligence (DCRI), Bernard Squarcini, said on Saturday that those arrested were “French nationals” involved in “collective war-like training, linked to a violent, religious indoctrination.”

Some of those arrested belonged to a suspected extremist group called Forsane Alizza, he said, and had been involved in paintball gun games.

The arrests took place in several cities, including Toulouse, where extremist gunman Mohamed Merah was shot dead by police last week after a series of cold-blooded shootings that left seven dead, including three Jewish children, according to AFP.

President Nicolas Sarkozy said the arrests were not directly linked to the Merah case, but he has called on police to increase its surveillance of “radical Islam” in what the opposition has described as a vote-catching move just a month ahead of a presidential election.

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