A dawn raid by French special forces on suspected Islamist radicals has resulted in the arrest of 19 suspected Islamist radicals.
In a co-ordinated operation in five towns, commandos also seized a dozen firearms, including three Kalashnikovs, although many were not in working order.
Police say they detained several people close to the banned radical group, Forsane Alizza or Knights of Pride, including its leader Mohammed Achamlane.
But according to political scientist and Islam specialist, Gilles Kepel, the group operated mainly on the internet - preaching extreme views, but never actually turning to violence.
That is one reason why questions are being raised over the motives of the raid which police say is not directly linked to the killing spree by gunman Mohammed Merah around Toulouse earlier this month.
Just three weeks ahead of a Presidential election in France, incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’s ratings have gone up since Merah was killed by a police sniper after a 32-hour siege, and a major crackdown on radical Islamists was ordered.
But some of Sarkozy’s political rivals have likened the operation to a publicity stunt.