PARIS: French authorities have arrested the administrator of an extremist French website who is suspected of playing a key role in financing and recruiting for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups from Pakistan to Spain, the Paris prosecutor's office said Tuesday.
The man, whom prosecutors call an ''operational vector and formidable financier of the bloodiest terrorist groups’’, is being questioned Tuesday. He faces preliminary charges of planning terrorist acts and financing a terrorist enterprise, the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
The man, a Tunisian born in 1977 based in the southern French city of Toulon, was arrested Friday after a yearlong investigation, the prosecutor's statement said. It did not give the man's name.
The prosecutor cited ''serious and concordant evidence'' that the suspect sent material from his computer to terrorist groups. It says he played a ''centralizing role'' in collecting funds for terrorist groups to buy weapons, but did not elaborate on how much money was involved.
Prosecutors say he is suspected of acting as a financier and recruiter for groups including al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (North Africa), Fatah al Islam, and the Islamic State of Iraq.
Investigators studied thousands of email messages and analyzed a ''considerable mass'' of data, prosecutors said.
They called it an exceptionally advanced example of ''the use of the Internet for terrorist ends in the domain of radical Islam.'' The arrest comes three months after a gunman who police said claimed allegiance to al-Qaeda killed Jewish schoolchildren and paratroopers in a rampage in southern France, in France's worst terrorist attacks since the 1990s.
Also earlier this year, a French court sentenced an Algerian-born nuclear physicist to five years in prison for his role in plotting terrorism with al-Qaeda's north African wing via online contacts. Adlene Hicheur, a former researcher at Switzerland's CERN laboratory, was convicted of ''criminal association with a view to plotting terrorist attacks.''
His defenders say he was a victim of allegedly overzealous French anti-terrorism laws and that he explored ideas on jihadist websites but never took any concrete step toward terrorism.