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French interior ministry mistakenly identifies man as terror suspect

The wanted notice issued for Reda Kriket in January 2016, with the incorrect photograph.

A photograph of a man named as terrorism suspect Reda Kriket, which had been distributed by the French interior ministry and widely circulated in the media, has turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, a French news show reported this week.


The photograph shows a young man with close-cropped hair and stubble who is not, in fact, Reda Kriket, Le Petit Journal reported.

Kriket, 34, was arrested near Paris on March 24 for suspicion of planning a terror attack in France. On raiding his home, police found an arsenal of weapons and explosives, just two days after suicide bombings in Brussels killed over thirty people. Two photos purporting to show Kriket have circulated on news sites around the world, one in black and white and the other in colour. The black-and-white photo, of a young man with a short mustache, does in fact show Reda Kriket. The colour photograph, however, is of a different man.

The mixup started in January 2016, when the French interior ministry released a “wanted” notice for Kriket to police departments all over France. Kriket was suspected of belonging to a jihadist network with links to Syria, of which Abdhelhamid Abaaoud, an organiser of the November 13 Paris attacks, was also a member. However, the photo which the interior ministry included on the Kriket notice was taken from another file, unrelated to the terrorism investigation.

Before Le Petit Journal pointed out the mistake, the photograph had already been published by international news sites like the BBC, CBS, the Mirror, and MetroNews, and on French news TV channels like TF1 and France3, as well as being reproduced in countless tweets and Facebook posts. So far, none of the English-language sites seem to have issued a correction about the photograph.

Le Petit Journal said they had confirmed the real identity of the man in the colour photograph, who lives in Courbevoie, the same Paris suburb which Kriket is from. However, they withheld the man’s name. Reda Kriket has been placed under formal investigation and faces charges for planning what French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve referred to as a terror attack in the "advanced stages."

The man who was falsely identified in the colour photograph, on the other hand, could in fact sue French authorities for damages.

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