France busts fighter-smuggling ring

France has detained five Muslim activists suspected of recruiting volunteers to fight the US army in Iraq.

    Police made the arrests as part of an anti-terrorist investigation

    Officials said four suspects were arrested on Sunday in the Paris area while a fifth was detained on Monday in the southern port of Marseille.

    One of the five suspects, Moroccan national Said al-Maghrabi, had been sought for months by several police forces across Europe.

    Al-Maghrabi was placed on Thursday under judicial investigation, a first step towards possible formal charges, for criminal association as part of a plot.

    The five were arrested as part of an anti-terrorist investigation launched last September after evidence emerged of a so-called Iraqi network recruiting volunteers to fight US forces.

    Moroccan suspect

    The Moroccan allegedly spent time in Afghan training camps run by Usama bin Ladin's al-Qaida network. Upon his return, he tried in vain to go to Chechnya where separatist rebels are battling Russian forces.

    "He has an active past," a source said.

    Al-Maghrabi was preparing to leave for Iraq, via Syrian capital Damascus, when he was apprehended on Sunday.

    In January, 11 suspected Islamists were taken into custody including 23-year-old Farid Binyattu, who along with two others has been placed under investigation for "criminal association related to a terrorist enterprise".

    French police believe Binyattou was the mastermind behind the recruitment operation, which allegedly sent young men to wage war against US-led forces in Iraq.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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