Major Jihadist Cell Center Allegedly Disclosed in Small French Town
15:56 28.01.2015(updated 16:11 28.01.2015)
On Tuesday, police and security forces put Lunel, southern France, on lockdown as they raided sites linked to a clandestine jihadist ring. Five suspects were arrested for alleged recruitment and indoctrination of young French people for the purpose of waging jihad in Syria and Iraq.
MOSCOW, January 28 (Sputnik) – The small town of Lunel in southern France has emerged as a case study in the country's homegrown jihadist movement after security forces broke up a recruitment cell sending fighters to Syria and Iraq.
On Tuesday, police and security forces put Lunel on lockdown as they raided sites linked to a clandestine jihadist ring. Five suspects were arrested for alleged recruitment and indoctrination of young French people for the purpose of waging jihad in Syria and Iraq.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a press statement the same day that if the involvement of the Lunel five in the jihadist network wasconfirmed, an 'exceptionally dangerous and organized cell' would have been dismantled.
But even before the security operation, Lunel, a town of roughly 26,000, had been known as one of the recruiting centers for foreign fighters, French media said.
Out of some 50 young people that are believed to have travelled to the Middle East from the southern Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, between ten and twenty were reportedly from Lunel. At least six of them have presumably died fighting alongside the Islamic State against the Syrian government.
Lunel is home to a large North African community. It has an unemployment rate of around 20 percent, double the national average, but still lower than the 50 percent in France's most deprived areas.
Statistics show that Languedoc-Roussillon region has the highest immigration rate in France. Immigrants coming from war-hit North Africa and Middle East often find themselves ostracized, becoming an easy target for IS recruiters.
The news on the Lunel raid come almost three weeks after Paris was hit by a string of Islamist-associated gun deaths starting with the killings of the Charlie Hebdo magazine cartoonists.
The country was put on a high security alert following the gun massacres. Last week, French authorities said they were investigating four people for allegedly conspiring to prepare the attacks.
In related activities, security forces in neighboring Germany and Belgium have staged raids on potential Islamist cells including some that have recently returned from Syria. Dozens of suspects have been interrogated.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|