French police crack down on terror suspects

At least one man killed and 11 others arrested in connection with an attack on a Jewish store last month.

Police killed Jeremy Sidney in an exchange of fire in Strasbourg after finding his fingerprints on a grenade [Reuters]

A man has been shot dead by French police in a nationwide crackdown on terror suspects that made 11 arrests, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

Molins said the man, killed on Saturday in an exchange of fire in Strasbourg, was linked to an attack on a Jewish store last month.

He was a “delinquent who had converted to radical Islam” and his fingerprints were found on the remains of a grenade thrown into the kosher grocery store in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, Molins told a press conference.

Molins named him as Jeremy Sidney, 33, and said that he was of French nationality.

He said the sweep had uncovered a list of Jewish associations, adding that “the inquiry will determine what were the next targets of this cell”.

Strasbourg prosecutor Patrick Poirret for his part said Sidney was “very determined with probably the ambition to die a martyr, and had emptied the chamber” of his revolver at the police before being shot dead. 

Poirret said that when police entered Sidney’s home, he was standing armed with a 357 magnum and fired at them, prompting them to return fire.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said earlier the sweep in a number of French cities was aimed at “dismantling terrorist networks”.

“When it’s a matter of fighting terrorism all means are applied to leave nothing aside,” Ayrault said, adding that the “very serious, widespread operation” had effectively been launched “several weeks ago”.

Visit cut short

Meanwhile, Manual Valls, the minister, called off a visit to a police security fair in Qatar in order to keep a close eye on events, after talks with Francois Hollande, France’s president, his ministry said.

Police sources said the crackdown was directed at a suspected Salafist network and linked to the September 19 attack which left one person injured and alarmed France’s Jewish commmunity.

Hollande stressed after the meeting with Valls “the full determination of the state to protect French people against all forms of terrorist threats”, the presidential palace said.

Three police officers were slightly wounded, one being hit in the head and another in the chest, but they were protected by their helmets and bullet-proof waistcoats.

Molins said Sidney had been at the home of “one of his two religious wives”, a woman aged 22 and clad in a niqab with a girl of six and a one-month-old baby.

Police said another man arrested in the Paris suburbs was armed and “dangerous” but did not use his weapon.

Police swooped simultaneously in several cities across France, among them Cannes in the southeast, where a man was detained without offering resistance.

Molins described the 11 individuals, who were born in the 1980s and 1990s, as “often common criminals who set out on a path of radicalisation toward Islamist jihadism”. 

Three of them had criminal records for cases involving drug trafficking, theft and violence. Sidney himself had been sentenced to two years in prison in 2008 for drug trafficking.

‘Will in pocket’

Police seized four wills during the arrests, including that of Sidney.

“When you have a will in your pocket, it means that you’ve outlined your last wishes and you foresee that extreme outcomes may take place in relatively short order,” Poirret said. 

Police also seized 27,000 euros ($35,000) in cash and Islamist literature in addition to the wills and a list of Jewish associations, according to Paris prosecutor Molins. 

Following the attack on the kosher grocery store in Sarcelles, investigators declined to link it to the recent anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” which triggered global protests or the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed by a satirical French weekly.

Moshe Cohen-Sabban, a local Jewish community leader in Sarcelles, said after the incident that there were no “special” religious tensions in the working-class area north of Paris with a population of about 60,000 and large numbers of Muslims and Jews.

The council representing Jewish institutions in France (CRIF) also said it doubted that the incident in Sarcelles was related to the violence surrounding the anti-Islam film.

Israel’s ambassador to France, Yossi Gal, however condemned it as an “anti-Semitic attack”.

Source: News Agencies