PARIS – Authorities in France, Germany and the Netherlands on Friday detained at least 10 people suspected of helping to fund Al Qaeda-linked militants with roots in Uzbekistan, officials said.
One suspect was detained in Germany, another in the Netherlands, with the rest detained in France, said a senior French police official who was only authorized to discuss the arrests on condition of anonymity.
The suspects' nationalities were not given but officials said they were Turkic-speaking.
French police suspect they collected funds for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a militant group said by the United States to have close ties to Al Qaeda.
The senior official described the arrests as "preventative" because the funds thought to have been collected were not known to have been used to carry out terror attacks.
The French arrests were made in Mulhouse, near the border with Germany, and in the Rhone region in the south. France's anti-terror agency, known by the initials DST, conducted the French operation.
Suspects' homes were being searched.
The official said at least eight people were arrested in France and that other arrests were possible.
In the Netherlands, the National Prosecutor's office confirmed the arrest, at France's request, of a 48-year-old Turkish man in the southern city of Tilburg. The man is thought to have received funds collected for an Islamist Turkish movement, said a statement from the prosecutor's office. France is seeking his extradition.
Dutch authorities also raided three houses in Tilburg, seizing computers, papers, telephones, ammunition magazines for guns and what was thought to be a gas-powered pistol, the statement said.
A German prosecutor also confirmed the arrest of a 35-year-old foreign man in Weil am Rhein, near Germany's borders with France and Switzerland. Prosecutor Otto Buergelin said France initially requested a search of the man's apartment at the beginning of May and later sought his arrest.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has been blamed for several attempted border incursions into Uzbekistan through Kyrgyzstan in 1999-2001 and bombings in both countries as well as Tajikistan — all ex-Soviet republics in predominantly Muslim Central Asia. Reputed supporters have been active in southern Kyrgyzstan recently.
The movement, which had training camps in nearby Afghanistan and fought on the side of Taliban, is believed to have been set back during U.S.-led operations there. Many followers of the IMU fled to Pakistan's tribal area near the Afghan border, where its leader Tahir Yuldash last year called in a video interview for supporters to launch suicide attacks.
The group now calls itself the Islamic Movement of Turkestan, a reference to a swath of Central Asia populated mainly by Turkic-speaking peoples.