Toulouse - Reuters - March 30, 2012
Masked special forces police escort a member of the Islamist community under heavy guard in Coueron, near Nantes, March 30, 2012. Photo by Reuters
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Police in southern France arrested around 20 suspected Islamic extremists early Friday, a news report said.

Though the raids were "not directly linked" to a series of killings this month by a 23-year-old who claimed he acted for al-Qaeda - The aim of the dawn raids was to "dismantle" suspected "networks," AFP reported.

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.