8 March 2013

Mali: Two French Islamist Fighters Extradited From Mali

A French jihadi fighter was to be extradited from Mali on Friday, according to Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian who said that the man is the second Islamist to be sent to France this week. A "large part of the work" of the French intervention has been accomplished, the minister said.

The man, who was captured along with about five other Islamist fighters in the northern Ifogha mountains, was to be extradited to France "any minute now", Le Drian told Europe 1 radio on Friday morning.

Another, who had not been involved in combat, had been sent to France earlier in the week, he added.

The presence of the two men shows that "a terrorist network" has been set up "to recruit fighters and takes in radical youths, like those who have fought in Afghanistan and Syria", he said.

Ibrahim Aziz Ouattara, 25, is reported to have been sent back to France on Tuesday after being detained in Mali since November, when he was arrested trying to make his way to Timbuktu, then under Islamist control.

He has confessed to Malian intelligence services that he went to Mali via Lisbon using another man's passport.

Ouattara, who was born in Aubervilliers near Paris, had already visited Yemen and Pakistan and tried to enter Somalia.

He was arrested in France in 2010, suspected of plotting an attack on Paris mosque rector Dalil Boubakeur, but released on parole in July.

Last month French police arrested four accomplices of Cedric Lobo, a Franco-Congolese arrested in Niger's capital, Niamey, and sent back to France, suspected in recruiting fighters for jihad in Syria and other countries.

Speaking from Bamako, where he was on Friday as part of a surprise visit to Mali, Le Drian said that French troops "have accomplished a large part of the work" in Mali but that there are still two "pockets" of resistance, in the Ifoghas and around the main city in the north, Gao.

Groups of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) fighters are "numerous" and continue to sneak in from the north, according to the minister.

"As we speak, there are more interventions in the mountains and there are patrols chasing them," he said.

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