France targets terrorism as top priority as crime levels fall
As France on Monday reported its lowest crime levels in years, French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said fighting terrorism must now become the country's top priority, dpa reported.
The minister said 80 Islamists had been arrested during 2008, effectively smashing recruitment and education networks.
Additionally, 40 people were arrested during raids against Spanish Basque terrorists during 2008, said Alliot-Marie. That figure included four of the six most wanted members of the ETA terrorist organization.
Meanwhile, nationalists carried out 89 attacks on the island of Corsica in 2008, the lowest level since 1973 and half the number reported in 2007.
Overall, French authorities registered 3.56 million crimes in 2008, 0.86 per cent less than in 2007 and 13.5 per cent less than 2002, when registered crimes hit 4.11 million.
Recorded initial arrests rose in 2008 to 577,816, a 2.8 per cent rise over 2007 levels and a 71.6 per cent increase over 2001, when 336,718 arrests were recorded. Police use arrests as an intimidating tactic, a practice that has drawn criticism from citizens' organizations.