Paris, Asharq Al-Awsat- A week after the arrest of nine suspected Islamic militants of North African origin, who are thought to have been planning terrorist attacks against targets in Paris and its suburbs, the French internal intelligence services (the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance) detained four men on Monday morning in Montargis in the Loiret region south of the capital.
Amongst those taken into custody, according to police sources, were two "prime suspects" affiliated to the French-Algerian, Safé Bourrada, who established a militant cell after his release from prison in 2003 where he spent five years for his role in the 1995 Paris terrorist attacks.
The nine men were implicated by information obtained by the French security services from the Algerian police. The two main suspects arrested are French converts to Islam, aged 25 and 30, who knew Bourrada. The other two suspects are the sister of one of the men, and a male friend of hers, who were in one of the flats raided in Montargis, a city 100km south of Paris.
In a televised address, the Minister of Interior, Nicholas Sarkozy described the latest operation as "a follow-up" to last week”s security raids in Evreux and Trappe, northwest of the capital where Bourrada and three others, Jamal Badawi, Ashour Warab, his cousin Kassi Warab, were detained.
An investigative judge officially charged them for financing terrorism and belonging to an extremist group with terrorist designs.
Despite repeated assurances from security services and those close to the investigation that the latest arrests were "an excellent operation", no clear indication has emerged on the exact terrorist attacks they planned to carry out. This was confirmed when Sarkozy said that the men had "evil intentions" but did not elaborate further.
French police had indicated that Bourrada and his supporters planned on targeting the headquarters of the French intelligence services (DST) in Paris, Orly airport and the capital”s underground train system, the Metro.
In addition to the four arrested last week and the two men detained on Monday, three Islamic militants remain behind bars suspected of belonging to Bourrada”s cell. They were arrested last summer in the Bois de Boulogne, west of Paris.
Mohammed bin Yamina, who lives in the city of Trappe, was arrested earlier at Oran airport in Algeria. He is thought to have revealed the existence of the cell to Algerian authorities who then alerted their French counterparts, evidence of the close security cooperation between the two countries.
According to police sources, the two men arrested on Monday had met in prison where they were serving time for public order offenses. French prisons are renowned for acting as "schools" where Islamic militants are educated and recruited.
Bourrada is thought to be close to the Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat a splinter of the Armed Islamic Group. The father of one of the men detained denied his son”s involvement in any Islamic movement and indicated his family had converted to Islam three years ago and "satisfied itself with praying".