Lifestyle & Belief

France deports Muslims amid crackdown on Islamic extremism


This screengrab from France 2 television shows an image of Mohammed Merah. The video was reportedly filmed by Merah's friends a year and a half ago in the suburbs of Toulouse.

The French Interior Ministry announced Monday it was deporting five Muslims, including Islamic preachers, in a crackdown after the killing of seven people by an an Al Qaeda-inspired gunman.

More from GlobalPost: Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah buried in cemetery outside Toulouse

CNN cited Interior Minister Claude Gueant as saying the deportations were part of "an acceleration of the deportation procedures of foreign Islamic radicals."

Among those deported was an Islamic militant from Algeria involved in 1994 attacks in Marrakech, Morocco, Gueant reportedly said, and a Malian imam known to have given sermons promoting anti-Semitism and rejection of the West.

The others were an imam of Saudi nationality, a militant Islamist from Tunisia and an imam from Turkey, the statement said.

Several of them were arrested in raids on March 30 in French cities including in the Toulouse region, where Mohammed Merah went on a 10-day shooting spree, killing three French paratroopers, a rabbi and three Jewish children ages 4, 5 and 7.

French police arrested 17 suspected terrorists, according to news reports, in Lyon, Paris, Nice, Rouen, Le Mans, Nantes, Marseilles and Toulouse.

Among them was Willie Brigitte, a terrorist convicted in 2007 for his role in a plot to destroy a nuclear research facility near Sydney, Australia.

According to Reuters, internal security has turned into a campaign issue ahead of the April 22 election, with President Nicolas Sarkozy's handling of the response to Merah improving his chances against Socialist rival Francois Hollande.

Further, Reuters cited police sources as saying a decision was due Tuesday on whether to place 17 suspected militants, including the leader of banned radical Islamist group Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride), under formal investigation.

A police source said 12 of the Islamists held from last week's arrests would be put under formal investigation with the rest, including Brigitte — a French Muslim convert — being released.

The head of the French intelligence agency, Bernard Squarcini, told French daily La Provence in an interview published on Saturday that the suspected militants were planning a kidnapping.