France detains 'top' al Qaeda suspect
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France filed preliminary charges Saturday against a French-Algerian man accused of links to al Qaeda and deported from Pakistan earlier this week. Naamen Meziche has also been linked with the terrorist cell that planned the 9/11 attacks.
France on Saturday place Naamen Meziche, the French national accused of links to al Qaeda, under formal investigation for "associating with wrongdoers with a view to committing terrorist acts" -- a step short of pressing formal charges. Meziche was deported from Pakistan on Tuesday, and was arrested upon arrival on French soil.
A Frenchman of Algerian origin who also holds an Algerian passport, Meziche was arrested in southwestern Pakistan in May 2012 along with three other suspected French jihadists, who were expelled to France separately in April.
Those three other French nationals face similar charges under the same section of French law that gives authorities broad powers to detain and prosecute a suspect for intending to carry out terrorist acts or contacting organisations suspected of terrorism.
At the time of his arrest, French intelligence sources described Meziche as an “important” al Qaeda leader linked to the so-called “Hamburg cell” that planned the 9/11 attacks.
Pakistani sources said the Frenchman, aged around 43, had links to Younis al-Mauritani, a suspected al Qaeda chief who is believed to have been personally charged by Osama bin Laden to plan attacks in Europe and the US.
Meziche’s deportation and arrest after more than 16 months in detention in Pakistan has sparked hopes that more details of the jihadist trail from Europe to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region will be revealed.
“Meziche is probably the terrorist who is most familiar with the recruitment channels used by al Qaeda to bring young jihadists to its training camps – and that’s why the French were so keen to get hold of him,” Roland Jacquard, head of the Paris-based International Terrorism Observatory, told FRANCE 24.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)