French police arrested 10 more suspected Islamic radicals during pre-dawn raids across the country on Wednesday, marking the second such day of mass arrests in less than a week.
The morning raids took place in the southern cities of Marseille and Valence, the northern town of Roubaix and two other towns in the southwest.
Last Friday, authorities arrested 19 people, some with alleged connections to the Forsane Alizza, or Knights of Pride, a suspected Islamic extremist group, which was banned earlier this year. Thirteen have since been charged with criminal conspiracy connected to a terrorist enterprise -- a charge that carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence -- and with illegal weapons possession.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said on Tuesday that Forsane Alizza, centered around Mohamed Achamlane, the animator, coordinator, and emir for all the suspects, had been using parks and forests around Paris to train members to take part in a jihad, according to the Associated Press. Achamlane was also arrested last week.
The group preached about the establishment of sharia law in France through a civil war, and was also plotting to kidnap and possibly kill a Jewish judge in the city of Lyon. The judge is believed to be Albert Levy, who is under police protection.
France's recent push against Islamists immediately followed the saga of Mohamed Merah, who was killed in a shootout with police in Toulouse on March 22. Merah went on a week long-killing spree around the southern city, killing three Jewish school children, a rabbi and three soldiers in separate attacks before engaging in a 32-hour stand-off with police.
Merah had a long criminal record and served jail time for theft. He was also known to both French and American authorities before the attacks because he reportedly traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2008. Merah was a self-proclaimed Islamic warrior inspired by al Qaeda who said he was enacting revenge for the deaths of Palestinian children in Israel.
Those arrested have a similar profile to Mohamed Merah, a local French police source told Al Jazeera. They are isolated individuals, who are self-radicalized.
“You will see that in the weeks to come we will continue this absolutely systematic work of assuring the protection of the French by not tolerating such activities, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday on Canal-Plus TV.
Sarkozy has promised to hunt down radicals in France, but with presidential elections less than a month away and Sarkozy trailing in the polls, some have criticized the incumbent for politicizing the issue.
Forsane Alizza stated on its website, which has been stripped of most of its content, that the Toulouse shootings miraculously coincided with presidential elections, adding that the government planted weapons on members in order to give Sarkozy a boost in the polls and to saturate the media with his presence.