Report: French Muslim who Led Violent Gang Served in Bosnian Force
PARIS (AP) _ In another sign that a gang wiped out by police may have had radical Islamic links, a newspaper reported Sunday that the French man who led the group had served in a Bosnian unit of Islamic militants.
Police commandos on March 29 stormed the gang’s hideout in a Muslim ghetto of Roubaix in northern France, killing four members. Two other men were later captured.
The man police say was the gang leader, 27-year-old Christophe Caze, fled and was killed in a clash with Belgian police.
The Paris weekly Journal du Dimanche reported that investigators say Caze had served as a medic in a force of foreign Islamic guerrillas fighting for Bosnia’s Muslim-led government.
Caze, a medical student from a working-class family, served with the unit in 1994 and 1995 near Zenica in central Bosnia, the newspaper said.
Le Figaro newspaper quoted police last week as saying Caze had worked for an Islamic humanitarian mission in Bosnia. It was unclear from Sunday’s report whether he did that as well as serve with the military unit.
A gang member killed in the raid _ Lionel Dumont, a 25-year-old French Muslim convert _ also had served in Bosnia as a truck driver for aid convoys, it said.
The three other men killed at the hideout were of Arab origin. The two men who were captured are an Algerian and a French man of Moroccan origin.
The gang members had worshipped at a mosque that was occasionally visited by leaders of the Islamic Salvation Front. The front’s armed wing is one of the radical groups battling the secular government in Algeria, a former French colony.
Officially, police are investigating the case as a purely criminal matter. The gang was blamed for a rash of supermarket robberies, bank heists and at least one murder.
But items found in the gang’s possession suggest the members were more than ordinary bandits: Police found documents from a radical rebel force in Algeria as well as a cache of automatic weapons and explosives.
Extremists opposed to French support of Algeria’s government took responsibility last year for bombings in France that killed eight people and injured 160.
So far, no evidence indicates the gang took orders from radical Islamic terror groups.