French Minister of the Interior Claude Gueant says some Islamist groups in France want to avenge the death of a Muslim radical who the government says was responsible for the killing of seven people in a shooting spree in the country’s south.
Gueant, speaking on French radio Europe 1 on Friday, said that authorities had observed increased “desire” and “enthusiasm” among such groups to avenge the death of Mohammed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, killed in a standoff with police last month.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is facing a tough re-election in a presidential vote, with a first round on April 22, has put security high on his agenda.
Gueant called on the people to be “vigilant and attentive.”
French security agencies are already on edge and have carried out sweeps, detaining 10 people from five cities on Wednesday in the latest roundup. Four of them were released on Thursday after questioning and a judicial official said that the other six would be released late on Friday.
The official was not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be named.
On Tuesday, preliminary charges were filed against 13 people who were detained in a raid last week, all members of Forsane Alizza, or Knights of Pride, a recently banned group. Nine of them were jailed. The four others were released, but must report to officials.
Last month’s killings of three paratroopers, a rabbi and three Jewish school children in the Toulouse region in southwest France has shocked the nation. However, Sarkozy has come under criticism for using the raids and expulsions to further his campaign.