France Nabs Nine in Terror Sweep

Published September 26, 2005

| Associated Press

French police on Monday detained nine people suspected of ties to a fundamentalist Algerian militant group possibly planning to attack France, officials said.

In Italy, police searched some 20 apartments and offices around the city of Milan that may be linked to 11 Algerians suspected of sending money to the same militant organization, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (search). The Algerian-based group has declared its allegiance to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda (search) network.

No one was arrested in the Italian raids and it was not immediately clear whether the raids in the two countries were coordinated.

French television station LCI said the group, known by its French initials GSPC, was suspected of planning attacks in France.

The GSPC is the most structured group among Algerian Islamic insurgents battling the North African state since 1992 in a bid to topple the government. In recent years, it has turned its sights on jihad, or holy war, beyond Algerian borders.

The French sweep was part of an investigation opened in July by anti-terror judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, said judicial officials who will only speak on condition of anonymity.

The 11 Algerian suspects in Italy are under investigation for international terrorism, said Mariano La Malfa (search), an official with the Milan financial police who led the operation. He said four of the 11 suspects are already in prison on arms trafficking convictions.

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