France deports Islamist militants, imams amid crackdown (REUTERS) Reporting By John Irish and Thierry Leveque PARIS, FRANCE 04/02/12 4:53pm EDT)
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(Reuters) - France said on Monday it was deporting five Islamic
militants and Muslim preachers in the latest show of strength by
President Nicolas Sarkozy as he clamps down on radical elements after
seven people were killed by an al Qaeda-inspired gunman last month.
Police commandos arrested suspected Islamic militants in raids on
March 30 in several French cities including in the Toulouse region,
where a Frenchman of Algerian descent went on a 10-day rampage
killing seven people.
The attack turned internal security into a bigger campaign issue
ahead of the April 22 election first round and may have improved
Sarkozy´s chances in a race in which he has lagged Socialist rival
Interior Minister Claude Gueant said two people had already been
deported on Monday as part of laws aimed at protecting the state and
ensuring public security.
"We do not accept Islamic extremism. This is not a new policy ... but
after what happened in Toulouse and Montauban we have to be more
vigilant than ever," Gueant told BFM TV.
In a statement, Gueant said an Islamist militant of Algerian origin
who had previously been sentenced for his role in a 1994 Marrakech
terrorist attack, was expelled for renewing ties in radical Islamic
A preacher of Malian origin was deported for promoting antisemitism,
advocating the full face veil and rejecting the West.
Imams from Saudi Arabia and Turkey as well as a suspected Tunisian
militant, who called for the death of all those who deviate from
Islam, are also due to be expelled, the statement said, adding that
other expulsions would take place soon.
Sarkozy´s firm handling of the response to the shooting spree may
improve his chances in the election, although surveys show only 20
percent of voters consider it their main concern as opposed to
purchasing power and unemployment.
Polls show that more than 70 percent of voters approved of Sarkozy´s
handling of the incident, reducing frontrunner Hollande to the role
of bystander before the two-round election on April 22 and May 6.
Sarkozy´s ratings have inched up. He now stands 1-2 points ahead of
Hollande in some polls for the first round but remains 8 points
behind his rival in surveys for the run-off.
Police sources said a decision is due on Tuesday on whether to place
17 suspected militants, including the leader of banned radical
Islamist group Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride), under formal
A police source said 12 of the 17 Islamists held from last week will
be put under formal investigation with the rest, including Willy
Brigitte - a French Muslim convert convicted in 2007 for planning an
attack on an Australian nuclear plant, being released.
The dozen, who all belong or support Forsane Alizza, will be
investigated for conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, according
to the police source. The prosecutor will hold a news conference on
Tuesday to give more details.
The head of the French intelligence agency, Bernard Squarcini, told
La Provence daily in an interview published on Saturday that the
suspected militants were planning a kidnapping. (© Thomson Reuters
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