A day after terrorist Mohammed Merah was buried in the outskirts of Toulouse, where he murdered four Jews and three soldiers, French authorities are stepping up efforts to crack down on potential terrorist cells.
French police arrested some 20 suspected terrorists in dawn raids Friday, a source privy to the operations said. Most of the raids were carried out in the city of Toulouse, and police sources reported finding some arms, including at least one Kalashnikov machinegun.
- Op-ed: Killer becomes a 'victim'
France bars Muslim clerics from entering country
Islamist serial killer buried in France
The raids were carried out by the French police's special counter-terrorism intelligence unit (DCRI) and elite police unit RAID – the same unit that carried out the 30 hour standoff with Merah on March 22, but an official police source stressed that there was no connection between Merah and the arrest of radical Islamic activists.
On Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that the "trauma caused by the killing in Toulouse are somewhat comparable to the (trauma) caused by the September 11 attacks in the United States."
Merah's funeral (Photo: AFP)
Speaking in a radio interview, the president said he did not wish to compare the two horrors, but noted that "the important thing to understand is that the trauma of Toulouse runs deep inside our country."
Merah was buried in his hometown Toulouse on Thursday, despite a protest by the French city's mayor after the serial killer's homeland Algeria refused his corpse.
Around 15 mainly young men accompanied 23-year-old Merah's gold-handled casket into the city's Cornebarrieu cemetery where Muslim prayers were recited before the al Qaeda-inspired killer's body was laid to rest.
Journalists were kept out of the cemetery by police.
Muslim official Abdallah Zekri said he expected the body to be buried in an anonymous grave as "the family wants a burial that is the most simple and discreet possible".
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop