France detains 6 suspected in jihadi network

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PARIS (AP) — Police detained six suspected extremists in southwest France on Sunday in the second such sweep in five days, part of an effort aimed at snuffing out networks of Muslim radicals sending fighters abroad — stepped up since January attacks in Paris.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the six, arrested around Albi and Toulouse, were suspected of helping to finance jihadi networks that recruit youth for fighting in Syria or Iraq. Recruiters and others who help French residents travel to battlefronts also are being targeted.

The arrests came on the demand of anti-terrorism judges investigating a case involving terrorism financing, a ministry statement said.

Eight people were arrested last Tuesday in the Paris and Lyon regions. Five of the eight were handed preliminary charges and four of them jailed, the statement said. It wasn't immediately clear if those arrests were part of the same investigation.

There was no indication whether there were links between the arrests and the three gunmen behind the Jan. 7-9 attacks in Paris that left 20 dead, including the gunmen.

Police arrested five people on Jan. 27 in the small town southern town of Lunel, the departure point for some 20 people headed to Syria or Iraq. Six Lunel residents have died on the battlefronts.

France has the highest number of citizens among European countries joining the jihad, mainly with the Islamic State group. As of mid-December, about 1,200 French had left for Syria, including about 400 still in the war zone and 200 on their way.

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