French town of Lunel under spotlight after terrorism raid

French security forces arrested five people in anti-jihadist raids on Tuesday in Lunel, a small town in the south of France, from where at least ten young people have left for Syria.

The raid in the town of Lunel began around dawn on Tuesday. Local residents told the AFP that at least twenty policemen were involved in the raid, knocking down doors as they went. At least five people were arrested, according to a police source. Yet this is far from the first time that this small town of roughly 26,000 has been in French headlines in connection with Islamic extremism.

In recent months, at least six men from Lunel died in battle in Syria. Last June, the Hérault regional police office said an estimated 50 young people were thought to have travelled from the Languedoc-Roussillon region to Iraq and Syria. At least ten, and maybe as many as 20 of those, came from Lunel.

Lunel is trying to understand why it has become a case study of France’s homegrown jihadists, while all the time pleading not to be “stigmatised,” in the words of Mayor Claude Arnaud.