French Authorities Arrest Eight Linked to Islamic Extremist Network in Syria

French interior minister says those arrested are not suspected of links to Charlie Hebdo or kosher grocery attacks.

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A French police officer in Biarritz, southwestern France, January 13, 2015.Credit: AP

AP - French authorities arrested seven men and a woman Tuesday suspected of involvement in a network to send fighters to join Islamic extremists in Syria, the latest roundup after France's deadliest terrorist attacks in decades.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said those arrested Tuesday in the Paris and Lyon areas are not suspected of links to the Jan. 7-9 attacks.

Police are trying to thwart new violence and find possible accomplices to three radical Islamic gunmen who attacked a kosher grocery and newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The men claimed allegiance to extremists in the Mideast.

Three of those arrested Tuesday had traveled to Syria and returned in December 2014, a French official said, though it was unclear whether they joined the Islamic State group or another group.

The network began sending French fighters to Syria in May 2013, and at least one of them was killed there, the official said. Other members of the network are still in Syria.

The group did not appear to be involved in any particular plot, or linked to any other networks already broken up in France in recent months, said the official, who was not authorized to be publicly named discussing security matters.

France has seen hundreds of homegrown radicals join extremists abroad, most linked to the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Cazeneuve said recent atrocities by the Islamic State group — including the killing of a Japanese hostage — "only strengthen the government's determination to fight terrorism every day and every hour."

French authorities have come under criticism for being overzealous in cracking down on potential threats since the attacks, arresting dozens for comments seen as defending terrorism and notably questioning an 8-year-old boy.

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