Police trying to crack a wave of bombings blamed on Islamic militants swept through poor suburbs around Paris, Lyon and Grenoble on Monday, rounding up at least 40 people.
Hundreds of investigators also seized weapons, false documents, suspect vehicles, videotapes and printed material, according to an Interior Ministry statement.
The second sweep in three days came as security was tightened across France. Hundreds more army reinforcements were called to monitor the border, government buildings and monuments.
Authorities focused on Islamic extremists “who could lend their help and belong to clandestine networks with terrorist purposes,” a Paris police statement said.
Last week, a car bomb exploded outside a Jewish school in a Lyon suburb, injured 14 people.
On Saturday, police raided Muslim radicals in neighborhoods around Lyon and 22 people detained were still being held. French law allows suspected terrorists to be held no more than four days without being charged.
The terror attacks began July 25, when a bomb blast in a Paris subway train killed seven and injured 84. Dozens of others were injured by blasts near the Arc de Triomphe and an outdoor market near Place de la Bastille.
Two other bombs, one planted in a public toilet in Paris and another on a high-speed train track near Lyon, failed to go off but resembled the others, made from blue gas canisters filled with nails and bolts.
Authorities believe the most likely suspects are Algerian Muslim extremists angered by France’s financial support of the military-installed government in Algeria. Insurgents seeking to establish an Islamic state in Algeria have killed more than 30,000 people since January 1992.
The head of the French national police force, Claude Gueant, said in an interview published in today’s editions of the newspaper Le Monde that Islamic extremists used young delinquents to further their own goals.
“It is clear that experienced extremist officials … are deliberately proselytizing the youths of certain suburbs in difficult situations,” Gueant was quoted as saying. “It is also clear that these extremist officials are trying to use some young delinquents.”
The Interior Ministry said 500 more military personnel were to be deployed beginning today to reinforce checks along France’s northern and eastern borders. That brought to 2,300 the number of military personnel deployed.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: FRENCH PROTEST NUCLEAR TESTS Thousands of people marched through Paris on Monday to protest France’s resumption of nuclear tests in the Pacific. Several hundred protesters also demonstrated in Orleans in central France and in Reims in the east. The Paris march was organized by some 140 groups, including leftist unions, environmentalists, humanitarian groups, and doctors angered by last Tuesday’s Pacific blast. Associated Press