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Sarkozy team denies arrests were political

FRENCH President Nicolas Sarkozy's (pictured) re-election team last night denied suggestions that raids resulting in the arrest of 19 suspected Islamist terrorists were politically motivated.

Mr Sarkozy was also accused of being "totally disproportionate" by stating the series of murders in Toulouse this month were "a little like" the September 11 attacks in terms of their deep impact on the national psyche.

With presidential elections just three weeks away, Mr Sarkozy's camp denied claims by some rivals that he was exploiting the Toulouse attacks to boost his chances of re-election by keeping the focus on security -- a domain where he is well-trusted by the French public.

"What must be understood is that the trauma of Montauban and Toulouse is profound for our country, a little -- I don't want to compare the horrors -- a little like the trauma that followed in the US and in New York after the September 11, 2001 attacks," he told Europe 1 radio.

Elite Raid police units and DCRI domestic intelligence agents yesterday seized 16 men, three women and weapons in several cities, including Toulouse, where the extremist gunman Mohamed Merah was shot dead by police last week. In a series of cold-blooded shootings Merah killed seven people, including three children.

The arrests were made a day after the Franco-Algerian was buried outside Toulouse. Algerian authorities had refused to accept the corpse. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent