French counterterrorism police arrested 11 suspects as part of efforts aimed at dismantling an alleged al-Qaida-linked recruiting network to send radical Islamic fighters to Iraq, police officials said Wednesday.
Nine suspects were detained in and near the southern city of Toulouse before dawn Wednesday, following the arrest of two others late Tuesday at Paris' Orly airport who had been sent home by Syrian authorities, police said.
The suspects were mostly in their 20s, police said. Two had sought to enter Iraq through neighboring Syria, but were detained by police there and remanded into French custody, police said.
No weapons were found in the arrests. An investigation was continuing.
As part of the probe, investigators turned up letters sent to supermarkets in the region near Toulouse that threatened bomb attacks, said a police official on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, the AP said.
The arrests were not officially part of a French judicial investigation into recruiting networks for Iraq opened in 2005, judicial officials said. Police investigators had monitored the suspects for months, according to the Interior Ministry, which first announced the arrests in a statement.
The ministry said the nine arrested in southwestern France were all from the region, and were "suspected of having links with the terrorist organization al-Qaida."
Jean-Louis Bruguiere, France's leading anti-terrorism judge, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday in New York that Islamic fighters were becoming more radical, and wanted to show their power has not diminished since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
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