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95 Arrested in French Raids on Islamists : Terrorism: Suspects are accused of running a support network for Algerian guerrillas. Police seize weapons, explosives.

November 09, 1994|SCOTT KRAFT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PARIS — Elite French police units raided homes and buildings near Paris and other cities Tuesday, uncovering a large cache of arms and explosives and arresting 95 people suspected of operating a support network for Islamic guerrillas in Algeria.

The police sweeps, the largest since authorities began cracking down on Islamic fundamentalists here a year ago, gave credence to repeated government warnings that French soil is being used to give logistic support to guerrilla groups in the former French colony.

It also was sure to fuel anti-Islamic feelings in France, home to 5 million Muslims, and increase scrutiny of foreigners and French citizens from North Africa.

"This shows clearly that there are fundamentalists strongly determined to develop terrorist actions and clandestine activities from our territory and from other European countries," said French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua.

It also showed, he told reporters, "that they have the means, including false identities, to move around in Europe. And it implicates French citizens of Algerian origin in these activities."

The raids, involving more than 300 police officers, were ordered by France's top terrorist prosecutor, Jean-Louis Bruguiere. The authorities focused their attention on immigrant areas around Paris and other major cities. An array of weapons, from automatic pistols and assault rifles to hand grenades, was uncovered at several sites.

Pasqua said investigators also found evidence of links between the French network and supporters in Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

Among those arrested was Mourad Adou, 24, described by authorities as a key leader of the Armed Islamic Group, which is believed to be responsible for sabotage attacks and assassinations of foreigners, journalists and intellectuals in Algeria. In the past year, 23 French citizens have been killed in Algeria.

The Armed Islamic Group has thus far refused to join talks between the military government in Algeria and more moderate Islamic fundamentalists. An estimated 11,000 people have died in Algeria since Islamic radicals took up arms after the January, 1992, elections, which were canceled by the government when the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front appeared to be winning.

In August, French police arrested more than 20 North Africans, eventually deporting them to Burkina Faso in West Africa. The conservative French government also has expelled some Islamic clergymen.

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