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The New Arab Staff

Four children 'terrorised' by heavily armed French police during anti-terror raid

Tensions are at an all-time high between France and its Muslim community [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 November, 2020

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The parents of four children, three of Turkish and one of Algerian descent, have accused police of terrorising their kids in an anti-terror raid.
Four children in France were "terrorised" for more than 11 hours by French police over false claims of "justifying terrorism", Anadolu news agency reported.

The children, all of whom are under ten years of age, said they were shocked to find armed police aggressively knocking on their door on Thursday morning.

They "clearly wanted to terrorise us," said Servet Yildirim, the French-Turkish father of one of the children, according to Anadolu.

"Before 7am, the police knocked [on the door] in such a way as to almost break it," Yildirim, whose family lives in Albertville, said.

"Ten masked policemen carrying big weapons entered the house," he added.

"They took pictures of the wall decorations, tried to find clues by searching the whole house," he said, noting the 10-year-old daughter was awoken and taken to the police station where they then "asked us a lot of questions about our religious beliefs, if we do prayers, etc".

"They questioned both of us, my wife and I, for two hours."

The police interrogated the family on their religious identity and their thoughts on rising tensions between french President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The frightening raid apparently took place after the 10-year-old made comments in class in the aftermath of the publishing of offensive Prophet Muhammad cartoons.

Speaking to Anadolu, the young girl explained what happened at the school when she was asked by her teacher what she thinks of the murder of the teacher who had shown the caricatures to his class.

"I told her that I was sorry that he's dead but nothing would have happened if he hadn't showed the cartoons," the girl said.

"My teacher just responded. 'Okay, I understand', and that was it," she added.

Her father, said that despite her comments, the 10-year-old knows nothing about the incident.

"These aren't things we talk about at home," he said, adding that "everyone knows our family after 20 years of living here. The school knows us very well; we had several children who went to the same school. If there was a concern about radicalisation with us, everyone would know," the father said.

The young girl, who described being shaken by the event, said she was interrogated on whether she visits the mosque and how frequently.

Two of the children that were taken by police were transported transported to Chambery, an Alpine town in southeastern France, the parents said, according to Anadolu.

Authorities refused to provide documentation to clarify why the had interrogated the family and the school failed to comment on the incident.

This comes at a time of sky-high tensions in France between the state - which argues that mocking religion is part of freedom of speech - and Muslims both in France and abroad, after offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad were republished in the country.

Protests and calls for boycotting French products were quickly sparked across much of the Muslim world, especially after President Macron defended the publishing of the caricatures.

According to Human Rights Watch, French authorities have been aggressively pursuing anyone who seemingly talks positively of a terrorist act or group even without threat or incitement.

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