France expels five radical imams

France last week banned four Muslim preachers from entering the country for a conference of the Union of Islamic Organisations.

PARIS: France has expelled two Islamic radicals and plans to deport three more as part of its crackdown following last month’s attacks by an Islamist who shot dead seven people, officials said Monday.

An Algerian radical and a Malian imam were sent back to their home countries on Monday, the interior ministry said in a statement.

A Saudi imam would not be let back into the country, a Turkish imam and a Tunisian radical would also shortly be expelled, and others would follow, the statement added.

At an election rally in the eastern city of Nancy on Monday, President Nicolas Sarkozy said he was sending a very clear message.

“All those who make remarks contrary to the values of the Republic will be instantly put outside the territory of the French Republic, there will no exception, there will be no leniency,” he said.

French police arrested 19 people in a crackdown on suspected Islamist networks in dawn raids on Friday as Sarkozy made the battle against extremism a keynote of his re-election campaign.

Of those, 16 were still in custody on Monday, sources close to the investigation said.

Some of the arrests were made in the southwest city of Toulouse, where gunman Mohamed Merah was shot dead by police last month after a 32-hour siege at a flat there.

Of the two deported Monday, Algerian activist Ali Belhadad had served 18 months in France for his part in a 1994 attack on a Marrakesh hotel in which gunmen killed two people and wounded two others, said the ministry.

Belhadad, who had in recent weeks re-established links with the radical Islamist movement, had been deported to Algeria, the ministry said. Continue reading

Fighting Terrorism, French-Style

News Analysis

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Ian Langsdon/European Pressphoto Agency

French soldiers on patrol near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

By STEVEN ERLANGER
Published: March 30, 2012

FRANCE and the United States have different notions of liberty, equality and fraternity, though the words look roughly the same in both languages. Methods of combating homegrown terrorism — another French word dating from 1789 — are also quite different, stemming from different histories, legal systems and conceptions of the state.

The horrors in Toulouse — the murders of seven people in a bit more than a week by Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old French citizen of Algerian-born parents who claimed membership in Al Qaeda — created a fierce debate in France about whether the police and security services failed to identify him in time. The police also failed to take him alive, making it harder to discover the true breadth of his contacts and of his path to terrorism.

Mr. Merah clearly slipped through the French net, which relies heavily on human intelligence and judgment. The French are asking why, and whether he might have been more easily identified by the more automated — and expensive — American-style reliance on computerized monitoring of phone calls and the Internet. That question is unanswerable, of course. But the differences between the two countries and their methods are considerable.

“In the United States, it is the system that counts; in France, it is the men,” says Marc Trévidic, a senior investigating magistrate for terrorism in France.

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