PARIS – French security forces on Tuesday raided a small town in the south that is known as a centre for the jihadi recruiting networks that have sent hundreds of French youths to fighting in Syria and Iraq.
The raid in the town of Lunel began around dawn on Tuesday. At least six young people from the town of about 27,000 have died in Iraq and Syria in recent months, of about 20 who left to join extremist fighters. In December the head of the local Muslim union, who also manages a mosque there, refused to condemn the 10 departures.
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Two French officials confirmed the raid, speaking on condition of anonymity because the operation was developing, but did not immediately have the number of people arrested in Lunel.
The French government says a total of 3,000 citizens have links to the extremist fighters, with important contingents among both the Islamic State group and its al-Qaida rival Nusra Front. Security officials have grown increasingly tense, especially since the Jan. 7-9 terror attacks in Paris that left 20 people dead, including three gunmen.
One of those gunmen claimed allegiance to Islamic State in a posthumous video. Another had ties to a jihadi network that send Frenchmen to Iraq to fight American forces during the war, and his brother was reportedly trained by al-Qaida’s Yemen branch.