French police raid Muslim association in 'counter-terror' probe

Around 200 police officers raided the headquarters of a Muslim association as well as homes of its members.

    Policemen stand next to Centre Zahra France religious association in Grande Synthe near Dunkirk [Philippe Huguen/AFP]
    Policemen stand next to Centre Zahra France religious association in Grande Synthe near Dunkirk [Philippe Huguen/AFP]

    Around 200 French police officers have raided the headquarters of a Muslim association as well as the homes of members of the club, in a swoop that authorities said was part of a "counterterrorism" operation.

    The raid on Tuesday took place in the town of Grande-Synthe at 0400GMT, near the port city of Dunkirk not far from Calais on France's northern coast.

    Targeting an association known as Centre Zahra France, the move included the questioning of at least 11 suspects, of which three were arrested.

    A security source told AFP news agency that the financial assets of the centre - headed by Yahia Gouasmi, who according to local reports is known for his links to Iran - were also frozen.

    "This is a counterterrorism operation," said a statement by the regional authorities.

    "The activities of Centre Zahra France are under particularly close watch ... due to marked support by its leaders for movements advocating ideas contrary to the values of the (French) republic," it said.

    On its website, the association says its purpose since its foundation in 2009 has been "to make known the message of Islam."

    Gouasmi has spoken in support of Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah and the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, AFP said.

    Gouasmi is also the founder of the Anti-Zionist Party in France and is an associate of controversial comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, a convicted anti-Semite.

    The small town of Grande-Synthe is known as a magnet for migrants seeking to cross the English Channel to Britain.

    France remains on maximum security alert after a wage of attacks over recent years, in which close to 250 people lost their lives.

    Paris, A Divided City: What does it mean to be French?

    Al Jazeera World

    Paris, A Divided City: What does it mean to be French?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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