At least 10 people have been detained in France, Germany and the Netherlands on suspicion of helping raise funds for an Islamist extremist group in Uzbekistan with alleged links to al-Qaida. For VOA, Lisa Bryant has more on the arrests from Paris.
French authorities say they have arrested at least eight people in the central Rhone region and in Mulhouse, near the border with Germany. A 35-year-old man was also arrested in Germany, near the border of France and Switzerland. Authorities in the Netherlands arrested yet another man in the southern city of Tilburg and the French have requested his extradition. Dutch authorities also seized computers, papers, telephones and other equipment in raids on three houses there.
Most if not all the suspects appear to be of Turkish nationality. They are accused of helping raise funds for a militant group called the Islamic Movement in Uzbekistan that is suspected of having links to al-Qaida.
The Islamic Movement group has been blamed for bombing attacks in both Uzbekistan and nearby Kyrgyszstan, as well as fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Bob Ayers, a terrorism expert at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, says a number of ex-Soviet Republics are grappling with militant Islamic movements. He says richer western European countries are good places to look for funds to finance terrorism operations. And for militant groups, he says, European countries like France have another asset.
"That is, the rather liberal, democratic forms [of governance] that we have in western Europe are so much more tolerant of having people in the country that are expressing different views. Also, you don't have the draconian police rule you have in other islamic states," he said.
The French, German and Dutch arrests mark another change, Ayers said - the growing counterterrorism cooperation among European nations.
"With the appearance of international terrorism striking at European targets, the police and the security services have become much more knowledgeable that you have to cooperate to succeed. Because you have a transnational movement and you need to deal with it in a transnational way. So police and intelligence collaboration in international terrorism is significantly better than it was several years ago," said Ayers.
French officials have described the arrests as preventative, and said they were made after investigating the suspects for more than a year.