Working in concert with Italian authorities, Police in France arrested at least five people in connection with a terrorist investigation.
French police rounded up five suspects near the southern port city of Marseilles in a raid nearly simultaneous with arrests in Italy. The arrests are linked to investigations into financing of terrorist activities and illegal immigration rings.
According to news reports, French and Italian authorities are trying to determine what connections, if any, exist with the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, an Algerian extremist group with networks in Europe. Last year, the group declared France its number one enemy.
French anti-terrorist expert Jean-Francois Daguzan says France's status as a target stretches back to the Algerian war of the 1990s, pitting radical Islamists against the country's military-backed government.
An analyst at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, Daguzan says France was considered by the group and other radical movements as an ally of the Algerian government, and therefore as their top enemy.
Experts say the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat is well implanted in Europe. It is known for clandestine activity in France -- although, Daguzan says, it has not been extremely active.
It has also been linked to al-Qaida, and Daguzin says authorities suspected the group of plotting strikes against a French metro line and against France's counter-terrorism organization, along with a church in Italy. None of the plots were carried out.