S (AFP) - French police have arrested five alleged militants in Paris and at Charles de Gaulle airport suspected of having trained in Pakistani-Afghan tribal areas, a source close to the enquiry told AFP.
Those arrested are interesting people in the context of the recently mentioned global threat against France, the source said, adding they were suspected of having trained as militants in western Pakistan, near Afghanistan. Two were arrested on Monday as they arrived from the Pakistani-Afghan border area on a flight via Egypt and three on Tuesday in Paris at the request of an anti-terrorist judge. The source said that some of them were suspected of being connected to death threats a few weeks ago against Dalil Boubakeur, the head of Paris main mosque, who has been under heightened police protection since the summer. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden warned France last month that its planned ban on the burqa in public places and its involvement in the war in Afghanistan justified violence against its nationals.
French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux subsequently said that France faced a real terror threat that needed total vigilance.
On October 17, Hortefeux said that Saudi security forces had warned about an Al-Qaeda threat to Europe and to France in particular.
In September, he also mentioned two other threats - one based on a warning from Interpol and another of a possible attack by a female suicide bomber.
Western security officials have also warned that Al-Qaeda may be planning attacks in Europe similar to those that struck Mumbai in 2008.
Militants returning from the war-ravaged border area are the main cause of concern for European states, said a source close to French intelligence. They worry that disparate but hardened fighters could unite to form militant cells.
On Saturday, French police arrested a man in his thirties suspected of having travelled to the sensitive Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.
He has been jailed pending trial on charges of criminal association and relations with a terrorist enterprise.