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In Paris, first arrest of Islamist suspects since start of Mali war

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Mr. Vall, the interior minister, said the arrests had come after a long investigation into Al Qaeda recruitment rings led by Mr. Trevidic.

"There is an operation ongoing in the Paris region, conducted by the DCRI [domestic security service], which comes after the arrest of an individual a few months ago on the border between Mali and Niger," he told BFM TV.

That man was a Franco-Congolese social worker named Cedric Lobo, 27, who was arrested in Niamey, the capital of Niger, while trying to reach the historic Malian city of Timbuktu to join the rebel group known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the source said.

He was subsequently extradited to France, where he was charged with planning attacks and remanded in custody.

'Enemy from within'

French nationals drawn to violent militant groups had a number of points in common, said Valls, who has taken a hard line on law and order and has warned that France is facing an "enemy from within."

"The profiles are often individuals that have had problems with the law, been involved in drug trafficking, and have sometimes converted to radical Islam either in prison, through the Internet or by travelling overseas," Valls told reporters.

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