French President Francois Hollande vowed tough anti-terror laws and tightened security as police Sunday pressed on with sweeping raids that saw one man killed and 11 arrested over an attack on a Jewish store.
He said Saturday’s raids, in which one man was killed and 11 other suspects arrested nationwide, had helped “crush an Islamist cell which we think had struck in the past and which could stage attacks in the coming weeks.”
He gave no details about the cell, but officials evoked the growing threat of homegrown radical Islamists, many of whom were recent converts.
Hollande also said that France, which has Western Europe’s largest Muslim population, should not “stigmatise” its estimated four million adherents.
He said surveillance would be stepped up “at places of worship because secularism, one of France’s fundamental principles, directs the state to protect all religions.”
Jeremy-Louis Sidney, a 33-year-old convert to Islam, was shot dead by police Saturday during a raid over a September 19 attack on a kosher grocery store in the gritty northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles which left one person injured.
Police on Sunday raided an apartment in the French Riviera city of Cannes and searched a vehicle following the arrests of two men there who had at one time given refuge to Sidney, a source close to the investigation said.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins described Sidney as “a delinquent who had converted to radical Islam” and said his fingerprints were found on the remains of an explosive device lobbed at the kosher grocery.
Sidney had been at the home of “one of his two religious wives”, a woman of 22 who has a girl of six and a one-month-old baby, during the early morning shootout in the eastern city of Strasbourg.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls meanwhile warned of a surge in homegrown Islamist radicals.
The 11 arrested suspects were born in the 1980s and 1990s, the Paris prosecutor said, adding that some were “common criminals who set out on a path of radicalisation toward Islamist jihadism”.
Three of the suspects had criminal records for cases involving drug trafficking, theft and violence. Sidney himself had been sentenced to two years in prison in 2008 for drug trafficking.
Jewish groups on Sunday complained of increasing hate attacks.
Richard Prasquier, who heads the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, added: “The intrinsic hatred against Jews is being more and more trivialised.