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Suspected French jihadist held in Mali

01 May 2013, 13:50

Timbuktu - A Frenchman suspected of being a jihadist after he appeared on a video warning France against attacking Mali has been arrested in the north of the west African country by French forces, a Malian government source said on Tuesday.

Gilles Le Guen, 58, and who goes by the name Abdel Jelil, was arrested near Timbuktu overnight on Sunday. He will face questioning in Mali before being extradited to France, the official said.

The Frenchman, who worked for the merchant marine, is believed to have joined the ranks of Al-Qaeda's north African branch Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), sometime after moving to Mali with his family following previous stints living in Morocco and Mauritania, a Malian security source said.

In October Le Guen appeared, wearing Islamic dress and with a gun at his side, in a video posted on a Mauritanian website in which he warned France, the United States and the United Nations against planned military intervention in Mali to rout Islamists from the country's vast desert north.

France in January went on to launch and lead the operation to stop extremists in its former colony.

Le Guen was however held prisoner by AQIM for several days in November 2012 -- 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 women.

Le Guen's "exact commitment to jihad still needs to be ascertained" when he returns to France, the Malian official said. "For the moment, these are only declarations."



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