MS Risk Blog

French Islamist Captured in Mali

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A French Islamic convert, who threatened his home country, has been captured in the northern region of Mali after allegedly fighting on the militants’ side.  This report come just one day after a sixth French soldier was killed in Mali.

The French army has confirmed that its troops have captured Gilles Le Guen, who now goes by the name Abdel Jelil, on Sunday night in a region just north of Timbuktu.  According to France’s Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Mr. Le Guen, aged 58, is
believed to have been living in Timbuktu and appears to have fought alongside the Islamist militants.  Mr. Le Guen, a former merchant seaman, is originally from the city of Nantes in western France.  He converted to Islam in 1985 and lived in Mauritania and Morocco before settling in Mali with his Moroccan wife and family in 2011.  Some reports have suggested that he joined al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) while other reports have indicated that the group held him prisoner for a few days in November of last year.  A month earlier, he had appeared in an Islamist vide, with his face uncovered and a gun by his side, warning France, the US and the UN against intervening in Mali.  A number of security sources have indicated that the case of Mr. Le Guen is unique as he made no attempt to disguise his identity while he was in Mali.  He is said to have lived mostly off wire transfers from Europe and did odd jobs such as repairing broken water pumps and cars.  According to on the ground sources in Timbuktu, when AQIM occupied the town, Mr. Le Guen was assigned to patrol it.  According to Mr. Le Drian, Mr. Guen was captured by French troops who were on patrol at the time.  The detainee will now be handed over to the Malian authorities and “probably expelled to France.”  Mr. Le Drian further added that so far, no charges had been drawn up however an investigation is currently underway.

Meanwhile French officials have confirmed that a French paratrooper has been killed and that two others have been seriously injured in Mali.  France’s defence ministry has indicated that the special forces soldier died in the far northern region of the country after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.  Six French soldiers have been killed since France launched an operation in Mali in January in order to drive Islamist rebels from the northern desert region.  The death of this paratrooper comes at a time when France is beginning to withdrawal some of its 4,000 troops.

The French Defence Ministry has indicated that the 32-year-old soldier was killed between Zaouaten and Boughessa, near the border with Algeria.  Two more soldiers were seriously injured in the same attack.  A military spokesman further noted that no militants were found in the area.  In a statement issued by the Presidency, President Francois Hollande extended his condolences to the relatives of the soldier killed, praising what he called the determination and courage of French forces in Mali.

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