EU Nations Arrest 10 In Uzbek Terror Probe

PARIS -- A three-country police sweep instigated by France has netted 10 people suspected of funding al-Qaida-linked militants with roots in Uzbekistan.

Eight suspects were detained Friday in France, one in Germany and one in the Netherlands, said a senior French police official, who was only authorized to discuss the arrests on condition of anonymity. The suspects' names and nationalities were not given, but officials said they were Turkic-speaking. The primary languages in Turkey and most countries in Central Asia are Turkic.

The official said French police suspect the suspects collected funds for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a militant group said by the United States to have close ties to al-Qaida. But a Turkish Islamic extremist group may also be linked to the case.

The Dutch National Prosecutor's office said the suspect arrested in the Netherlands is thought to have received funds collected for a movement led by Metin Kaplan, an Islamic militant accused of attempting to overthrow Turkey's secular regime. Another French police official said that Kaplan "supports all jihad movements," including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The official, also only authorized to discuss the matter on condition of anonymity, said all 10 suspects arrested Friday were named in a single French probe into "financing Islamic terrorism."

Linguistic and ethnic ties and shared Islamic extremist goals between the Turkish and Uzbek groups make financial links between them "likely," said Louis Caprioli, former head of counterterrorism at the French anti-terror agency DST.

French police described Friday's arrests as "preventative" because the funds thought to have been collected were not known to have been used to carry out terror attacks.

The French arrests were made in Mulhouse, near the border with Germany, and in the Rhone region in the southeast.

In the Netherlands, the National Prosecutor's office confirmed in a statement the arrest, at France's request, of a 48-year-old Turkish man in the southern city of Tilburg. France is seeking his extradition.

Dutch authorities also raided three houses in Tilburg, seizing computers, papers, telephones, ammunition magazines for guns and what was thought to be a gas-powered pistol, the statement said.

A German prosecutor confirmed the arrest of a 35-year-old foreign man in Weil am Rhein, near Germany's borders with France and Switzerland.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has been blamed for several attempted border incursions into Uzbekistan through Kyrgyzstan from 1999 to 2001 and bombings in both countries as well as Tajikistan. Reputed supporters have been active in southern Kyrgyzstan recently. The movement, which had training camps in Afghanistan and fought on the side of Taliban, is believed to have been set back during U.S.-led operations there. Many followers of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan fled to Pakistan's tribal area near the Afghan border, where its leader, Tahir Yuldash, last year called in a video interview for supporters to launch suicide attacks.