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France arrests 11, kills one in nationwide anti-terror operation


French police officers stand guard at the entrance of a building in Strasbourg, France, Saturday where a suspect was shot dead after firing at police.

French authorities raided homes in cities across France on Saturday, arresting 11 terror suspects and killing one who reportedly first opened fire on police.

"A vast anti-terrorist operation was conducted this morning," Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference.

The suspects arrested in various French cities were affiliated with a Salafist movement and believed to constitute a jihadist cell, Molins said.

He identified the man who was shot and killed by police in Strasbourg after he fired on them, lightly wounding three, as Jeremie Sidney, 33.

Molins described Sidney as a French national who recently converted to Islam after spending two years in prison for drug dealing.

"Jeremie Sidney appeared to be a delinquent converted to radical Islam who belonged to a group suspected, without certainty, to want to enter into jihad," Molins said.

French authorities say Sidney’s fingerprints match those on a grenade that was tossed into a Jewish kosher market in Sarcelles, a Paris suburb, on Sept. 19.

Police had been preparing for Saturday’s operation for weeks as result of the investigation of the attack in Sarcelles.

The people arrested were between the ages of 19 and 25, The Associated Press reported.

In the house raids carried out in the Paris region, Strasbourg, Cannes and Nice, authorities found arms, large amounts of money and four wills, suggesting the suspects may have been planning an attack.

A statement from President Francois Hollande praised the police for the raids and said the state would continue to "protect the French against all terrorist threats."

The Sarcelles attack took place on the same day that a French satirical paper published crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, and while anti-Western protests were growing against an anti-Islam film.

NBC News' Nancy Ing, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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