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France Releases 5 Of 12 Terror Suspects Detained Last Weekend
225 days ago
(RTTNews) - Police in France have released five of the 12 terror suspects detained over the weekend in a nation-wide police operation connected with an investigation into a grenade attack on a Jewish shop in Paris, officials said on Thursday.
The Paris prosecutor's office said in a statement that the remaining seven continued to be in custody. They are now expected to appear in court in the coming days.
All the 12 were detained in a nationwide counter-terrorism operation aimed at capturing suspects in a bomb attack on a kosher food shop in the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles on September 19. That attack had triggered widespread outrage after it emerged that radical Islamists were targeting the Jewish community in Sarcelles.
Saturday's raids took place in the French cities of Strasbourg, Nice, Cannes and Paris. One suspected Islamist radical, later identified as 33-year-old Jeremie Louis-Sidney, was killed in a shootout during the police operation in Strasbourg. He is said to have opened fire on police officers who were attempting to arrest him at his house in the French city. At least three police officers were injured in the incident.
Following the detention of the 12 suspects, French police unearthed bomb-making materials and weapons hidden in a parking lot in an eastern Paris suburb on Wednesday during an investigation into what they said a "dangerous" Islamist network.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said later that the discovery of the cache, consisting of a shotgun, a revolver, bags of potassium nitrate, sulfur and a pressure cooker, was linked to the arrest of a dozen terror suspects over the weekend.
"We are clearly confronted with an extremely dangerous terror network," Molins said in a press statement on Wednesday, adding that the detained suspects would now be held in custody for questioning for a further 24 hours.
Incidentally, France's Socialist government had tabled a new anti-terrorism bill last Wednesday in the country's Parliament. The measure is intended to tighten existing anti-terrorism laws in the wake of the killing of seven people by an al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist gunman in the country's south in March.
The new measure seeks to prosecute people who undergo combat training at overseas extremist camps, and stipulates up to ten years' imprisonment for such persons. It also allows authorities to monitor those suspected of running extremist websites.
If approved by the Parliament, the legislation would allow French police to question people suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activity outside France. Incidentally, present laws allow the cops to act only when such offenses are suspected or committed inside France.
Mohamed Merah, the Islamist gunman who carried out the shooting spree in southern France, was killed on March 22 following a 32-hour police siege of his apartment in the southern city of Toulouse. Before his death, Merah admitted shooting seven people to death -- three soldiers and four civilians -- in three separate attacks.
French authorities had faced wide-spread criticism for failing to act sooner after it emerged that they had intelligence about Merah's links with foreign Islamists since 2009. Nevertheless, authorities defended their actions by pointing out that existing laws prevented them from arresting a person who had not committed an offense on French soil.
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