updated 9/27/2005 11:59:30 AM ET 2005-09-27T15:59:30

Authorities fear that a suspected Islamic terror cell broken up in France was plotting attacks on the Paris subway, an airport and an intelligence agency's headquarters, newspapers said Tuesday.

Police arrested nine people Monday in the sweep, including an Islamic militant previously convicted on terrorism charges and freed from prison two years ago, officials said.

Le Figaro and Le Parisien newspapers said the alleged cell's suspected targets included the Metro, a Paris airport and the Paris headquarters of the Directorate for Territorial Surveillance, or DST, a police intelligence and counterterrorism agency.

Algeria link
DST agents launched the raid after receiving a confidential note from Algerian authorities summarizing the questioning of a suspect arrested Sept. 9 in Algiers, the Algerian capital, Le Parisien said.

The suspect, identified by the newspaper only as "M.B.," was an alleged group member who indicated that the attacks were being planned in France, the report said. His wife was among the nine arrested.

Le Figaro said the suspected cell allegedly had al-Qaida contacts and that some of its supposed members have knowledge of explosives.

The nine were apprehended in Monday morning raids west of Paris and in Evreux, 55 miles northwest of the French capital. Among those arrested was Safe Bourada, an Islamic militant convicted on terror charges and freed from prison in 2003, officials said. He had been under surveillance since his release.

Media tip off?
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy faced accusations Tuesday that he had tipped off reporters about the arrests -- which were filmed by waiting television crews.

Sarkozy appeared to refer to the sweep in a television interview broadcast Monday night, after the suspects were in custody. But the interview was actually recorded five days earlier, before the raids took place.

The opposition Socialist Party demanded a quick explanation from Sarkozy "over the conditions that caused him to express himself in anticipation of a counterterrorism operation during the taping of a TV interview."

Le Parisien claimed that the minister had "let the cat out of the bag."

Sarkozy's spokesman, Franck Louvrier, told The Associated Press by telephone that the minister "did not express himself in anticipation." He denounced a "political polemic" fomented by Sarkozy's rivals.

The minister used the TV interview to detail an anti-terrorism bill to be presented next month. He said the government wants to increase use of surveillance cameras, make telephone companies and Internet cafes keep more detailed records and keep tabs on people traveling to countries that harbor militants.

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