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France charges two with suspected jihadist links

One of the two suspects is believed to have communicated with a well-known French extremist via Telegram
One of the two suspects is believed to have communicated with a well-known French extremist via Telegram Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two men allegedly linked to a French extremist have been charged with "associating with terrorists", Paris prosecutors said Wednesday.

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The men, aged 30 and 39, were arrested last Friday in the eastern towns of Dole and Roanne, the extremist's hometown. They allegedly associated with the extremist, 29 year-old Rachid Kassim, before he left for Iraq or Syria in May 2015.

Kassim is suspected of using the encrypted Telegram app to direct attacks on France from IS-controlled territory in Iraq or Syria.

A source close to the probe said the 30-year-old who was charged is suspected of having been in touch with Kassim recently via Telegram.

Investigators are trying to determine whether the older suspect "played a role in the radicalisation of Kassim," the source said.

Kassim, who has appeared in several IS propaganda videos, is suspected of ordering or inciting the killing of a police couple in their home west of Paris in June as well as the murder of an elderly priest in a Normandy church in July. He is believed to have been a key influence on three teenagers arrested around Paris earlier this month.

Kassim was also in contact with an all-female gang of radicals, arrested on 8 September, who have been charged with planning another attack after an apparent failed attempt to blow up a car packed with gas cylinders near Paris's Notre Dame cathedral.

- with AFP

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