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Police Arrest Group Running Islamic State Online Shop in Sleepy French Town

Authorities were reportedly alerted by residents of Ambérieu-en-Bugey after they recognised their town of 14,000 in an undercover TV show.

by Melodie Bouchaud
Nov 27 2014, 7:44pm

Image via Wikimedia

French police have arrested a group selling Islamic State paraphernalia during a raid on a sleepy French village, after they were apparently alerted by residents who recognized their neighborhood on an undercover TV show.

Officers made the arrests on Wednesday night, according to the local newspaper Le Progrès. They also seized a large quantity of books, DVDs and flags, according to a statement released by the Interior Ministry.

The number of detained people remains unknown but sources close to the investigation told AFP that a couple seen a few days before on TV was among them.

The police were reportedly alerted by residents of Ambérieu-en-Bugey, near Lyon, in eastern France who recognized their neighborhood in Enquête Exclusive, a French TV broadcast, on Sunday evening. This episode of the show, known for its hidden camera investigations, centered on the issue of the Islamic State's French recruits.

The program included a segment in which a couple was shown bragging about being the last remaining sellers of Islamic State flags in France, after their main competitor was put in jail.

The woman was seen explaining that before devoting herself to this online business, she was "in a computer service company," and that her husband was "staying at home, bored to death". She said that they have been shipping flags not only to different parts of France, but also to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the United States, and Australia.

They were filmed using a hidden camera and their faces were blurred. Some of the streets shown of the quiet town - which has just 14,000 inhabitants - were also blurred for the broadcast. However, residents still apparently managed to identify the couple's location and alerted French authorities.

"We took all the necessary measures to blur the images, we respected these people's anonymity," a source who works at M6, the private TV channel which broadcasts the show told VICE News.

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, explained that the journalists "found the website very easily, after a quick search. Meeting the people was as simple." She added that they heard of the arrests on the radio on Thursday morning.

The members of the group risk up to seven years of prison and a 100,000 euro fine according to the new anti-terror bill passed by the French parliament earlier this month, which is meant to combat "apology for and incitement to terrorism." This is the first time individuals are to face the new charge, part of a wider law targeting lone wolves planning "individual terrorist undertakings."

France is the western country that provides the Islamic State with the highest number of jihadists. The French government says that 1,136 French citizens are currently fighting in Iraq and Syria, or are planning on going there.