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Report says French police arrest 20 suspected Islamic extremists

PARIS — Police in southern France arrested around 20 suspected Islamic extremists early Friday, a news report said.

The raids were “not directly linked” to a series of killings this month by a 23-year-old who claimed he acted for al-Qaida, the French news agency AFP said, quoting a source close to the inquiry.

The aim of the dawn raids was to “dismantle” suspected “networks,” the report quoted the source as saying.

Several of the arrests were in the town of Toulouse, where Mohamed Merah was accused of killing three soldiers as well as three children and one adult at a Jewish school in separate attacks March 11-19.

He was shot by police after a siege in a residential area of the city and was buried Thursday. His brother Abdelkader Merah has been charged by police in connection with the killings.

Reports that Mohamed Merah was on the radar of French intelligence for suspected extremist connections prompted criticism of the security forces for not taking action against him sooner.

President Nicolas Sarkozy told the police last week to conduct renewed assessments of the risk posed by individuals thought to have sympathies or connections with radical Islam.

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