Bamako - The wife and children of a French Islamist arrested
in northern Mali have been "evacuated" to Paris, Malian airport and
security sources told AFP on Thursday.
Gilles Le Guen, 58, who goes by the name Abdel Jelil, was
arrested by French forces near Timbuktu overnight on Sunday and is being
questioned in Mali's north-eastern city of Gao.
"Shortly after the arrest of Gilles Le Guen, who was
with his family, his wife and five children - two girls and three boys - were
evacuated to Paris," the security source said.
Le Guen's wife, who is from the Maghreb region of northwest
Africa, and the children boarded a plane to Paris from the Malian capital
Bamako "in recent days", the source at the city's airport said.
"The trip was given the green light by French consular
authorities," she told AFP.
Le Guen is to be transferred to Bamako on Thursday or
Friday, the security source said.
The Frenchman is believed to have joined the north African
militant organisation al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) after moving to
Mali with his family following previous stints living in Morocco and Mauritania.
In October Le Guen appeared in Islamic dress with a gun at
his side in a video on a Mauritanian website in which he warned France, the
United States and the United Nations against military intervention in Mali to
drive Islamists from the country's vast desert north.
France went on to launch and lead an operation in January to
halt an advance by extremists on Bamako and drive them from Mali's northern
Le Guen was held prisoner by Aqim for several days in
November 2012 and some sources say the group believed he was a spy while others
say Aqim picked him up after he intervened to stop Islamists from mistreating