French police detained 19 people on Friday as they launched a crackdown on suspected Islamist extremists in cities around the country, President Nicolas Sarkozy said, promising more raids to come.
Tensions are high following a spate of killings in southern France by a radical Islamist that left seven people dead and two wounded and ended up with police killing the gunman last week after a 32-hour standoff.
But French Interior Minister Claude Gueant told journalists “there is no known link” between those detained on Friday and Mohamed Merah, the 23-year-old Frenchman who claimed responsibility for the shootings in Toulouse and Montauban.
“It's in connection with a form of Islamist radicalism,” Mr. Sarkozy said on Europe-1 radio. “There will be other operations that will continue and that will allow us to expel from our national territory a certain number of people who have no reason to be here.”
A police investigator told The Associated Press that the anti-terrorist unit of the Criminal Brigade detained five men before dawn in Paris who had suspected links to an Islamist movement. Weapons were also seized, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with the department's rules. The other arrests took place in Toulouse, Marseille, Nantes and Lyon.