Wednesday, January 26, 2005

France Expands Probe, With Additional Arrests, Into Network Suspected Of Funneling Combatants To Iraq

PARIS, Jan. 26 — France's counterterrorism agency detained another four people Wednesday, expanding an investigation of a network suspected of funneling French Islamic militants to Iraq, authorities said.

The latest arrests raised the number of people in custody to 10, judicial officials said. The justice minister suggested the roundup, which started Monday in the Paris region, was timed to allow France's domestic counterterrorism agency, known as the DST, to gather better information.

''The anti-terrorist struggle is a daily war,'' Justice Minister Dominique Perben, said on France-2 television. ''It is a meticulous job to work back up the networks, to draw connections between names, between types of behavior and methods of action.''

Seven people suspected of being part of a network funneling French combatants to Iraq were taken into custody Monday in Paris, but one of those — a woman — was released Wednesday.

Under French law, those arrested in the investigation can be held for up to four days before being released or facing preliminary charges.

Perben gave no details about the arrests. But he said France's six magistrates with sweeping powers to combat terrorism ''follow step-by-step a certain number of suspects, a certain number of people who are susceptible of being in contact with terrorist groups in France or overseas.''

On Sept. 22, judicial authorities opened an investigation to determine whether a network for sending militants to Iraq exists in France. The inquiry was opened after the bodies of several French nationals were discovered in recent months in Iraq.

Experts here have said they do not believe there is a substantial France-based network to help Muslim extremists make their way to Iraq to fight U.S.-led multinational forces.

But there have been numerous arrests of suspected al-Qaida-linked cells in France. Six people are on trial in Paris in connection with an alleged al-Qaida-inspired plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy here.

In Germany, numerous arrests linked to Iraq have been made recently. On Sunday, German security forces arrested two alleged al-Qaida members, an Iraqi and a Palestinian, accused of plotting an attack in Iraq. Earlier this month, German police arrested 15 people to break up an alleged network of Muslim extremists suspected of falsifying passports and spreading militant Islamic propaganda.

Posted by Texas Gal