05 October 2010
French authorities arrested eleven men on Tuesday morning on suspicion of involvement with the terrorist network al-Qaeda and planned terror plots. The news agency AFP quoted a police source as saying that the men had been detained in the southern cities of Marseille and Bordeaux. According to an official, police seized "some weapons, including a Kalashnikov and a pump-action shotgun, as well as ammunition." Also on Tuesday, police in France arrested three men said to be linked to a man of Algerian origin taken into custody by Italian police in Naples on Saturday, who is due to be extradited to France. Police reportedly found the phone numbers for the three men in the mobile phone of the Algerian man. The 28-year-old had been under a European arrest warrant when he was caught, allegedly with a bomb-making kit. In addition, a mobile phone and computer were also seized.
On Monday, French police arrested a 53-year-old man suspected of links to a bomb threats including one Friday at a Paris railway hub, an official with knowledge of the investigation said on condition of anonymity. The suspect, who was not identified, was detained southwest of the capital for possible links to a phone-in threat at the Saint-Lazare train station in Paris. French authorities recorded nine bomb alerts in the capital in September, including two at the Eiffel Tower – a threefold increase from the previous year. However, no explosives have been found.
The arrests come as France and many other European nations have stepped up terrorism alert vigilance amid what has been described as an abstract though heightened threat in recent weeks. On Monday, Japan and Sweden joined the US and Britain by issuing warnings of a Mumbai-style attack on major transport hubs or tourist attractions across Western Europe. Both the countries warned their citizens that al-Qaeda was plotting terror attacks on foreign visitors in Europe and that travellers should be cautious in public places, tourist attractions and in "other places with large crowds".
On Sunday, the British Foreign Office warned tourists to remain vigilant. "Like other large European countries, the French/German authorities continue to consider that there is a high threat of terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers," the UK Foreign Office had said. The move came shortly after America issued a Europe-wide terrorism alert based on intelligence reports that the continent had been targeted, highlighting the “potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure.”
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