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Sarkozy crackdown on 'radical Islamists': A campaign move?

French police arrested at least 19 people suspected of radical Islamist activity. President Nicolas Sarkozy, who faces a vote on April 22, says there will be more raids.

French special forces police inspect a garden house during the arrest of a member of the Islamist community in Coueron, France, March 30, 2012.

REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

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French police commandos arrested 19 people suspected of radical Islamist activity in Friday morning raids in several cities including Toulouse, scene of the killings of seven people by an Al Qaeda-inspired gunman earlier this month.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is waging an uphill battle for re-election, said more raids would follow.

"There will be further operations, allowing us to expel a number of people who have no business in the country," he said in an interview on Europe 1 radio.

Gunman Mohamed Merah was killed by police snipers just over a week ago after shooting dead three Jewish school children, a rabbi and three soldiers in attacks around Toulouse, turning internal security into a bigger campaign issue ahead of the presidential election.

IN PICTURES: Toulouse school shooting

Polls showed that more than 70 percent of voters approved of Sarkozy's handling of the Toulouse shootings, which reduced his chief rival, Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande, to the role of bystander ahead of the two-round election on April 22 and May 6.

A police source said about 20 had been arrested in raids in Toulouse in the southwest, Nantes in western France and also in the Paris region and southeast France. Sarkozy put the number of arrests at 19.


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