Paris attacks: French anti-terror police descend on 'White Emir' village

French police has conducted a search at Olivier Corel's (above) house as part of the investigation on the Paris terror attacks.
French police has conducted a search at Olivier Corel's (above) house as part of the investigation on the Paris terror attacks.PHOTO: AFP

TOULOUSE (Reuters) - French anti-terrorist police accompanied by helicopters descended on a small south-western French village on Tuesday (Nov 24) searching for a Salafist preacher suspected of mentoring young extremists, a source close to the case said.

The operation, one of dozens that police have been conducting in suspected extremist circles after the Nov 13 attacks, targeted imam Olivier Corel, nicknamed the "White Emir", in Arigat in the Pyrenees mountains of south-western France, the source said.

The search centred on Corel, 69, the suspected mentor for Mohammad Merah, who killed seven people in 2012, many at a Jewish school in Toulouse, and Fabien Clain, whose voice was identified on an audio tape in which the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for killing 130 in Paris on Nov 13.

Corel, a French national of Syrian origin who lives in Arigat, was arrested but later released at the time of the Merah attacks, the source said.

Dozens of people have been arrested and homes searched by police in the wake of the Nov 13 attacks, most of them as part of a broad sweep that is not specifically targeting people thought to have played a direct role in the attacks.