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Chechen link to France threat


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Chirac, right, and Schroeder before the meeting at the Elysee Palace

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PARIS, France (CNN) -- French police have opened an investigation after a Paris newspaper published a letter from a Muslim group threatening the French people.

The letter from the group calling itself the "Servants of Allah the Mighty and the Wise" was addressed to the head of the French government and published in the Paris daily "Le Parisien."

It was signed with the name "Commando Movsar Barayev," on behalf of the shadowy group, the newspaper said.

Movsar Barayev is the name of the Chechen rebel and alleged leader of a deadly hostage-taking raid October 2002 on a theater in Moscow.

Russian special forces stormed the theater and killed Barayev.

The French Justice Department opened the investigation in conjunction with special police services.

Interior Ministry Nicolas Sarkozy said the letter is being analyzed.

Investigators said they had not heard of the group.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the letter contained "menacing threats for the entire nation..."

The threat was revealed as French President Jacques Chirac pledged to step up the fight against terrorism to protect citizens and institutions.

"Europe must always fight terrorism with all its strength," Chirac told reporters.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, appearing with Chirac after bilateral talks in Paris, said he agreed with that assessment.

The leaders were meeting in the French capital nearly a week after bombs exploded on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 201 people.

Both leaders expressed solidarity with Spain in the wake of the terrorism, and vowed better cooperation among European nations to collect intelligence on various attacks.

Military force is not the only solution, Schroeder said. "One needs to look at the roots of it," including lack of development in the developing world.

Meanwhile, officials of anti-terrorist services from across the European Union were preparing to travel to Spain in the next few days to coordinate the investigation and exchange information after the Madrid bomb attacks.

"We have called a meeting for the coming days of the most important anti-terrorist services from the European Union who will meet here in Madrid," Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes told Reuters Monday.

"This will be to coordinate inquiries and efforts, exchange information and plan for the future."

The EU will also hold an emergency meeting of EU interior and justice ministers on Friday before a summit of European leaders on March 25-26. The issue of terrorism is sure to overshadow scheduled talks on economic reforms.

Among EU proposals being floated after Thursday's Madrid train bombings is the possibility of appointing a special EU anti-terrorism czar, Reuters reported.


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