Police in France arrested 19 suspected Islamic militants on Friday morning, including some who may be tangentially connected to the man who shot seven people in Toulouse this month. While none of the suspects have been directly connected to the recent attacks, some were members of a banned Salafist group that Mohamed Merah may have been linked to. The raids took place in the early morning hours in the cities of Toulouse, Nantes, Le Mans, and in the Paris, where police say they also seized automatic weapons. No formal charges have been filed yet, but President Nicolas Sarkozy says there could be more raids and the suspects will likely be expelled from France.
The crackdown appears to be due, at least in part, to criticisms that the government did not do enough to stop Merah, who was under surveillance by French intelligence agencies prior to three separate shooting incidents that left seven people dead. Merah was killed in a shootout with police last week and was buried on Thursday in Toulouse, after Algeria refused to accept the body for burial. Merah's brother had earlier been arrested for aiding in the attacks and police believe that a third, unidentified suspect may have also been involved.