PARIS – A three-country police sweep yesterday instigated by France netted 10 people suspected of financing terrorist movements – and threw the spotlight on Al Qaeda-linked militants with roots in Uzbekistan.
Eight suspects were detained in France, one in Germany and one in the Netherlands, said a senior French police official who was only authorized to discuss the arrests on condition of anonymity.
The suspects’ names and nationalities were not given but officials said they were Turkic-speaking. The primary languages in Turkey and most countries in Central Asia are Turkic.
The official said French police suspect the suspects collected funds for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a militant group said by the United States to have close ties to Al Qaeda. But a Turkish Islamic extremist group may also be linked to the case.
The Dutch National Prosecutor’s office said the suspect arrested in the Netherlands is thought to have received funds collected for a movement led by Metin Kaplan, an Islamic militant accused of attempting to overthrow Turkey’s secular regime.
Another French police official said Kaplan “supports all jihad movements,” including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The official, also only authorized to discuss the matter on condition of anonymity, said all 10 suspects arrested were named in a single French probe into “financing Islamic terrorism.”
Linguistic and ethnic ties and shared Islamic extremist goals between the Turkish and Uzbek groups make financial links between them “likely,” said Louis Caprioli, former head of counterterrorism at the French anti-terror agency DST. He said the arrests appear to reflect a strategy among terror cells in Europe of diversifying the national origins of their members to better avoid detection.
French police 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.
In the Netherlands, the National Prosecutor’s office confirmed in a statement the arrest, at France’s request, of a 48-year-old Turkish man in the southern city of Tilburg. France is seeking his extradition.
A German prosecutor confirmed the arrest of a 35-year-old foreign man in Weil am Rhein, near Germany’s borders with France and Switzerland.
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