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'French terrorist' faces probe for kidnapping journalists in Syria

Benoit Peyrucq, AFP | A sketch of Mehdi Nemmouche during his court hearing in Versailles, France, on June 26, 2014, a month after the attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.

Paris prosecutors are investigating allegations that Mehdi Nemmouche was part of a islamist group that held four French journalists hostage in Syria last year, an unnamed judicial source told Reuters news agency.

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The probe, launched in July, relates to kidnapping and terrorism charges, Reuters reported in an article published Friday.

Nemmouche, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, is already being tried in Belgium for killing four people during a shocking attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014.

Edouard Elias, Didier François, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres were freed in April 2014 after 10 months in captivity.

François, a veteran war correspondent, and Elias, a photographer, were abducted in early June 2013 on their way to Aleppo in Syria. Hénin, who was working for Le Point magazine, and Torres, reporting for French-German television channel Arte, were taken later that same month near Raqqa.

The four men were held hostage together in basements and frequently had no access to natural light for their entire captivity. François told Europe 1 that the men were chained together for two-and-a-half months.

'Torture'

Hénin, said that Nemmouche, 30, would beat him and he had often heard him torturing Syrian hostages.

When Nemmouche wasn’t singing, he was torturing [people],” Hénin said in an interview with Le Point magazine last year. “He was a member of a small French group who terrorised the fifty Syrian prisoners being held in nearby cells. The torture lasted all night until morning prayers. The prisoners’ screams were sometimes met with yelling in French.”

Hénin was held for a time with American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, both of whom were later beheaded by militants from the Islamic State group.

Nemmouche is believed to have spent more than a year in Syria fighting alongside Islamist militants.

French authorities arrested Nemmouche in the southern French city of Marseille in May last year and extradited him to Belgium two months later to face charges relating to the deadly Brussels museum attack.

That assault left an Israeli couple, a French woman and a Belgian man dead, and reinforced fears that Europeans who join extremist fighters in Syria could return to stage attacks at home.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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