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The arrests took place in Toulouse, Marseille, Nantes, Lyon and the Ile de France region, around Paris, the Interior Ministry said.
Authorities have not said that any of those arrested were directly linked to Merah.
Sarkozy told Europe 1 that the decision to act had been taken by the interior minister and foreign minister "to deny the entry of certain people to France" who did not share the country's values.
"It's not just linked to Toulouse. It's all over the country. It's in connection with a form of radical Islam, and it's in agreement with the law," he said.
Speaking to French media, he said the raids targeted people who have made the claim online that they are "mujahedeen," or Islamist fighters, and support "an extremely radical ideology."
The authorities' decision to swoop was in part based on the suspects' claims that they had received paramilitary training, Gueant said.