PARIS, Apr 19 (Reuters) French and Italian police arrested 13 suspected Islamists today in a joint operation targeting a group thought close to Algeria's radical Islamist group, the GSPC, judicial and police sources said.
Anti-terrorist police detained five people in the southern French port of Marseille and can hold them for up to six days if prosecutors can prove they were planning an attack.
Eight others were arrested in Italy's southern port of Naples, mainly on suspicion of using and making forged documents.
French security chiefs say the threat of a terrorist attack in France remains high despite France's strong opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq.
But France's new anti-terrorism doctrine says the country remains a prime target because it shares intelligence with Washington and its ally London and has troops in Afghanistan helping to combat Islamic militants.
The head of French police said last July the GSPC posed a major threat to France and that the group and had been in contact with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, about operations in North Africa and probably France.
French anti-terrorism magistrates and the Interior Ministry said in late 2005 they had dismantled two groups linked to the GSPC, including one led by French national Safe Bourada who was implicated in Islamist terrorism attacks in France in 1995.
Reuters SI RS1649