French special forces in raid
French special forces in raidReuters

French anti-terrorist police accompanied by helicopters on Tuesday descended on a small southwestern French village searching for a Salafist preacher suspected of mentoring young jihadists, a source close to the case told Reuters.

According to the news agency, the operation targeted imam Olivier Corel, nicknamed the "White Emir", in Arigat in the Pyrenees mountains of southwestern France.

Corel, 69, is the suspected mentor for Mohammed Merah, the terrorist who killed seven people in Toulouse in 2012, including in the Otzar HaTorah Jewish school.

He also allegedly mentored Fabien Clain, whose voice was identified on an audio tape in which the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for killing 130 in Paris on November 13.

Corel, a French national of Syrian origin who lives in Arigat, was arrested but later released at the time of the Merah attacks, the source told Reuters.

Dozens of people have been arrested and homes searched by police in the wake of the November 13 attacks in Paris.

In addition, arrests have been carried out in Belgium, whose security services were on the defensive when they were accused of blunders, infighting and worrying leniency towards radicalism that let the perpetrators of the Paris attacks slip under the radar.

French President Francois Hollande said last week that the attacks were "planned in Syria, prepared and organized in Belgium", specifically from the impoverished immigrant district of Molenbeek.

The chief suspect in the Paris attacks is Salah Abdeslam, but he is still at large and earlier this week it was reported that he had managed to flee Belgium to Germany.