French forces leading the operation to oust Islamist groups from northern Mali have captured a French citizen who was fighting with the insurgents. He is likely to be repatriated to France where he will face terrorism charges.
A French citizen was among five Islamist fighters who surrendered last week to French troops fighting to secure northern Mali.
Named only as Djamel, the 37-year-old, described as having a shaved head and long beard, was born in Algeria and became a naturalised French citizen through marriage.
FRANCE 24 reports from Mali's Ifoghas mountain range
He had been living in Grenoble in southeastern France, the city where his latest French passport had been issued.
According to security services quoted by French news radio Europe 1, he surrendered on Tuesday March 5 with five other fighters in the Ifoghas Mountains in the far north of Mali where fierce fighting is taking place.
He was handed over to Malian security forces on Friday, although it is likely he will be extradited to France to face terrorism charges.
His capture coincided with a visit by French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to northern Mali to meet French troops serving there.
10 to 20 French citizens with the Islamists
Le Drian also held meetings with officials in the capital Bamako.
According to Europe 1’s sources, on the agenda were protocols on the status of foreign fighters captured as part of the French-led operation.
Although Djamel is the only French citizen to be caught in combat operations so far, he is not the first to have been detained in Mali since Islamist and Tuareg tribal groups seized the north of the country in March 2012.
In November 2012 Ibrahim Aziz Ouattara, who holds dual French-Malian citizenship, was arrested by Malian police as he was making his way from Bamako to then rebel-held Timbuktu.
The 25-year-old, from the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb north of Paris, was extradited to France last week and charged on Friday with “criminal association with terrorist groups”.
According to French weekly the Journal de Dimanche, there are an estimated 10 to 20 French citizens among the ranks of the Islamist insurgents fighting in the region.
Most of these are likely to have joint citizenship between France and any of her former colonies – Mali, Algeria and Niger – that span Africa’s Sahel region.
Date created : 2013-03-10