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FRANCE - SYRIA

Second French jihadist named as possible Islamic State jailer

The four French journalists released from captivity arrive back in France (l-r) Edouard Elias, Didier François, Nicolas Hénin and Pierre Torres
The four French journalists released from captivity arrive back in France (l-r) Edouard Elias, Didier François, Nicolas Hénin and Pierre Torres Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

A French jihadist has been named as a possible jailer of Western hostages in Syria. Salim Benghalem is the second man believed to be among the captors who held several Western journalists and NGO workers who were later executed, as well as four French reporters who were freed in April 2014 after 10 months in captivity.

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Le Monde newspaper on Friday cited a French intelligence source naming Benghalem as one of several suspected jailers working for the Islamic State armed group (IS).

The 35-year-old was said to have been a direct superior in the IS hierachy to Mehdi Nemmouche, who carried out a fatal attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels last year.

Click for RFI reports of the Charlie Hebdo killings

French anti-terror police opened an investigation into the two men, along with other unnamed accomplices, in July, according to Le Monde.

One of the French journalists who was released, Nicolas Henin, spoke last year of being mistreated by Nemmouche during his detention but Benghalem was not mentioned.

Benghalem was imprisoned in 2007 for his part in gang violence and was released in 2010.

For two years he reportedly shared a cell with a former jihadist who had fought alongside Al-Qaeda forces in Iraq.

It was through this man that Benghalem met would-be jihadists belonging to a network in Paris known as the "Buttes-Chaumont group", after a park in the area where they lived.

This branch included members Said and Cherif Kouachi, who carried out the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in January.

Security sources say Benghalem flew to Syria in 2013.

Suspected of carrying out executions, Benghalem is on the United States list of the 10 most wanted terrorists in the world.

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