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13 Islamists charged with terror offences in France; police arrest 10 more suspects

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Thirteen suspected Islamists have been charged in France with “criminal conspiracy connected to a terrorist enterprise” and illegal possession and transportation of weapons, officials said Wednesday, as ten more suspected Islamists have been arrested.

The 13, some of whom are members of a suspected extremist group called Forsane Alizza that was banned this year, were arrested on Friday in the wake of attacks by an Islamist gunman who killed seven people.

Elite French police, meanwhile, arrested at least ten suspected Islamists in early morning raids on Wednesday in several cities, a police source said. Police operations were continuing, the source said.

The raids were notably carried out in the southern port city of Marseille as well as Roubaix near the Belgian border, and in several other locations in the country’s south and southwest, a source told AFP.

The raids follow the arrest of 19 people on March 30 a week after police snipers shot dead al-Qaeda-inspired gunman Mohammed Merah, who killed three Jewish school children, a rabbi and three soldiers in a spate of attacks around Toulouse.

“Those arrested have a similar profile to Mohammed Merah,” a local police source told Reuters. “They are isolated individuals, who are self-radicalized,” the source said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is waging an uphill battle for re-election in an April-May vote, has vowed to root out any form of militancy following Merah’s killing spree.

Thirteen of the 19 people linked to a radical French Islamist group arrested last week are being put under investigation on suspicion of terrorism, the Paris public prosecutor said on Tuesday.

France on Monday announced the expulsion of five radical Islamic preachers -- an Algerian, a Malian, a Saudi, a Turk and a Tunisian -- as part of a crackdown in the wake of the Merah killings.