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France forces closure of three 'radical mosques'

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Photo: AFP
15:53 CET+01:00
The French government announced on Wednesday that three mosques deemed to be "radical" have been closed down in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

France's interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced on Wednesday that three mosques in France have been closed under emergency measures implemented in the days following the Paris terror attacks.

On Wednesday French police raided a mosque in the Paris suburb of Lagny-sur-Marne, the third Islamic place of worship to be raided and closed since November 13th.

Cazeneuve added that "three pseudo-cultural associations" linked to the mosque at Lagny-sur-Marne were also being dissolved.

The mosque in Lagny was formerly led by the imam Mohamed Hammoumi, known for his radical sermons and who is accused of recruiting volunteers for jihad in Syria, according to Le Parisien newspaper. 

Hammoumi and a number of his followers reportedly fled to Egypt in December 2014.  

Cazeuneuve said police found evidence of an unregistered Koranic school and various documents about jihad in the mosque.

"Such measures to close mosques because of radicalization have never before been taken by any government, including during the last state of emergency in 2005" after rioting broke out across France's troubled suburbs, Cazeneuve said.

The other two mosques where the doors have been closed were in the suburb of Gennevilliers, to the north west of Paris, and one in the city of Lyon. 

Following Wednesday's raid nine people were placed under house arrest, and 22 are now forbidden from leaving country. 

One individual is being held by police for possession of a 9mm handgun.

"These operations are targeting preachers of hate along with cult associations that incite people to hate," Cazeuneuve said on Wednesday.

Since the Paris attacks the French government has been under pressure to take a hard line against radical preachers.

Authorities are making use of special powers as part of an official state of emergency in place since the November 13th attacks. 

Cazeuneuve said that since the night of the attacks police had carried out 2,235 raids searches and seized 334 arms, including 34 of a military grade. 

More than 200 individuals are being held by police and another 300 are under house arrest.

The government has however been criticized for sacrificing civil liberties in its battle against terrorism, that has led to increasing concern among rights groups.

But Cazeneuve insisted the only threat to freedom comes from the likes of those who attacked Paris.

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"Terrorism is what's threatening our freedoms today, not the state of emergency," Cazeuneuve said.   

Since the attacks many Muslim leaders in France have firmly denounced the jihadists, saying they have nothing to do with the values of Islam.

SEE ALSO: Liberté losing out in France's 'war' on terror

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