Lawyer: Islamic group not linked to gunman

March 31, 2012 at 6:50 PM
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PARIS, March 31 (UPI) -- The lawyer for the leader of an Islamic group arrested by French authorities said the group has no connection with the Toulouse gunman who killed seven people.

Lawyer Philippe Missamou, who represents Forsane Alizza leader Mohammed Achamlane, one of 19 people arrested Friday for alleged links to radical Islam, said Saturday Achamlane denied the group had anything to do with Mohammed Merah's killings, CNN reported.

Merah killed a rabbi, the cleric's two children and another schoolgirl outside a Jewish school last week and three paratroopers of north African descent the week before.

Merah allegedly admitted to the shootings during a two-day standoff with police at his apartment in Toulouse before he was killed in an exchange of gunfire.

CNN said French media reports have suggested Merah had links to Forsane Alizza, which has followers in Toulouse.

France's Interior Ministry said "19 arrests were made in connection with the group Forsane Alizza" Friday in Toulouse, Marseille, Nantes, Lyon and the Ile de France region, around Paris.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant said five rifles, four automatic weapons, three Kalashnikov rifles and a bulletproof vest were found in searches of the suspects' homes.

Missamou said Achamlane said Forsane Alizza did not support armed combat. The lawyer said the group was not dangerous but worked to battle injustice against Muslims in France.

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