5 suspected jihadi cell members arrested in France

Story highlights

  • Five men aged from 26 to 44 are arrested in a police raid in Lunel, southern France
  • France's interior minister says the arrests deal a "new blow" to terrorism

Paris (CNN)Five men were arrested in southern France Tuesday on suspicion of belonging to a jihadist cell which was recruiting young French people, authorities said.

Speaking at a news conference in Paris, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said "a new blow has been dealt to terrorism" with the arrests in the Herault region.
    Police units carried out an early morning raid in in the small town of Lunel overseen by the anti-terror branch of the Paris prosecutor's office.
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    Five men aged between 26 and 44 were arrested and remain in police custody. Law enforcement agenst also conducted several searches.
    According to Cazeneuve, the five men "are suspected of active participation in a jihadist thread whose members were recruited and indoctrinated, and then themselves recruited and indoctrinated several French young people from Lunel as well."
    Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor, told CNN that "two men out of the five are suspected to have traveled to Syria, two others were allegedly planning on traveling there."
    It's too early to give out any further information, she said.

    'A seriously dangerous and organized cell'

    Cazeneuve emphasized the seriousness of the men's alleged jihadist ties.
    "If the involvement of the suspects is confirmed by the courts, a seriously dangerous and organized cell will have been dismantled this morning," he said. "Yet another one."
    It's been almost three weeks since two gunmen attacked the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, and another gunman shot a policewoman in a Paris suburb and killed four hostages in a kosher supermarket.
    Since then, authorities in France and elsewhere have cracked down on suspected radical Islamists with links to the Paris attackers or to terror networks overseas.
    Cazeneuve on Tuesday reiterated the "full mobilization and determination" of French authorities to fight against terrorism "both inside and outside the country."
    Over the past year, he said, more than 10 young men have left their hometown of Lunel for Syria, where they joined the ranks of ISIS. Several of them have died in fighting in Syria or Iraq.
    In total, 73 French nationals have died under the same circumstances, he said.