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French police arrests 10 in crackdown on radicals

PARIS — Police on Wednesday arrested 10 people in raids across France as part of a crackdown on radical Islamists in the wake of attacks on soldiers and a Jewish school, officials said.

The arrests were carried out as part of a preliminary investigation opened Monday into terror-linked activity in France, a judicial official said.

Another official close to the investigation said the 10 were suspected of links to Islamist websites and of threatening violence in online forums. Some of them may have been trying to attend jihadist training camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border, he added.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing policy.

The raids in five cities, mostly in southern France, were the second in several days and appeared to be part of a new focus on rooting out radical Islamists in France.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is facing a tough re-election, has promised to hunt down radicals and hold them to account or kick them out of the country. But he has come under criticism for using the raids and expulsions to further his campaign.

On Tuesday, preliminary charges were filed against 13 people who were picked up in a sweep last week, all members of a banned group, Forsane Alizza, or Knights of Pride. Nine of them were jailed. The four others were released but must report to officials.

Some of those charged were reportedly calling for Muslim Sharia law to be implemented in France.

The second official emphasized that those arrested Wednesday were not linked to Forsane Alizza or to the killing spree last month in and around Toulouse that left seven dead.

The raids represent the increased focus in France on homegrown radicals. Last month's attacks on French paratroopers and the Jewish school have been blamed on Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin who claimed to have received weapons training during trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

France expelled a foreign radical imam and a radical Islamist militant earlier this week, sending them to their homelands. Others are in line to be forced out of France.

Sarkozy on Tuesday declared a "zero tolerance" policy for hate speech and radical ideologies at odds with French values and for those who use their role as preachers to do so.

His administration and police came under criticism after the Toulouse killing spree for not stopping the perpetrator sooner since they knew he traveled to Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal area of Waziristan.

Police had Merah under surveillance after his return, but officials have said they couldn't arrest him.

Associated Press writer Sarah DiLorenzo contributed to this report.