Police in France have arrested more suspected Islamist extremists in their crackdown against militants following a string of killings last month by a man claiming ties to al-Qaida. Opposition politicians are questioning the timing of the crackdown, ahead of this month's presidential elections.
Police arrested 10 people in early-morning sweeps in several towns in northern and southern France. Investigators said they also recovered three Kalashnikov rifles and several handguns. The arrests follow similar operations last week targeting 19 suspected Islamist extremists.
A man, interviewed on BFM television, said about 40 police broke down his door to arrest his son. He called the raid shameful.
Wednesday's operation is part of a larger government crackdown against suspected radicals following last month's shooting deaths of seven people by French-Algerian Islamist Mohamed Merah. Before dying in a firefight with police, Merah claimed to have ties with al-Qaida and said he received training in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Thirteen of those arrested last week have been charged with terrorism. Several are members of a banned Islamist group called Forsane Alizza, or Knights of Pride. In addition, French authorities announced Monday they have expelled five radical Islamist preachers. The government has also barred several foreign preachers from entering the country to attend an Islamic conference.
Authorities are careful not to link the recent arrests to the Merah killings, but President Nicolas Sarkozy says France now has a zero-tolerance policy toward extremism.
In a television interview Sarkozy said the government will no longer tolerate language of hate and violence, and he vowed foreigners who make such statements will be deported immediately.
Less than three weeks before the first round of presidential elections, the crackdown has given Sarkozy a bounce (boost) in opinion polls. But his rivals are questioning the timing of the police raids, suggesting the government should have acted earlier. They also criticize the highly publicized nature of the crackdown, with some French media offering live coverage of the operations.