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17 April 2024

France fears hundreds of militants still at large


France's Interior Minister on Monday predicted more arrests in a crackdown on Islamic extremists and warned there could be hundreds of armed home-grown militants still at large.

The minister, Manuel Valls, issued his warning in the wake of a nationwide sweep at the weekend which left one man dead and 12 others in detention on suspicion of either being involved in the bombing of a Jewish grocery last month or of planning other anti-Semitic attacks.

"We know that there are dozens, even hundreds of individuals who are capable of organising themselves like the group that has just been dismantled," Valls said.

Police on Saturday shot dead the suspected leader of the group, Jeremie Louis-Sidney, 33, after he opened fire on officers seeking to arrest him in a dawn raid at his home in Strasbourg, eastern France.

According to the police, traces of Louis-Sidney's DNA had been found on the pin of a grenade thrown into a kosher grocery in the Paris suburbs on September 19.

Subsequent police raids on addresses in the Paris region and in the Riviera resort of Cannes resulted in 12 suspects being detained and a total of 27,000 euros in cash being seized along with arms, radical Islamic literature, computer files and a list of Jewish organisations and associations.

The raids have caused alarm within the French Jewish community, which has registered a steady rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents, both before and since Islamist Mohamed Merah's March killing of rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two children and one of their schoolmates in Toulouse in March.

Merah also killed three French paratroopers before dying himself in a police siege.

Richard Prasquier, the head of the CRIF, the main representative body for French Jews, said Monday that Islamic radicalism was akin to Nazism and warned that French society had not yet realised "the scale of the evil" it faces.