Pakistan deports French al-Qaeda suspect
Issued on: Modified:
Pakistan on Tuesday deported a French national, accused of links to Al-Qaeda and suspected of recruiting Islamist fighters.
Naamen Meziche was escorted onto a flight from Islamabad and arrived in Paris on Tuesday afternoon, French time, a diplomatic source said.
Intelligence officials believe he was once connected to Al-Qaeda's so-called "Hamburg cell", which planned the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Meziche, who also holds an Algerian passport, has been in custody in Pakistan since being arrested in May 2012, along with three other suspected French jihadis, who were sent back to France in April.
The three others were detained on their return to France for "associating with wrongdoers with a view to committing terrorist acts".
Sources say Meziche is likely to face charges under the same section of French law.
It gives authorities broad powers to detain and prosecute a suspect for intending to carry out terrorist acts or contacting organisations suspected of terrorism.
Though Meziche is suspected of being a long-time Al-Qaeda member, there is no proof of his involvement in any specific act of terror, and security officials are divided about how big a player he might be.
Western and Pakistani intelligence officials have described Meziche, aged around 43, as close to Younis al-Mauritani, an important Al-Qaeda figure arrested in Pakistan about six months before him.
According to the Pakistani military, al-Mauritani was personally charged by Osama bin Laden with planning attacks against targets in the US, Europe and Australia.
The fact that Meziche was arrested in the company of three young Frenchmen in a part of Pakistan where numerous Islamist militants circulate added to suspicions he was in the business of recruiting young Europeans for extremism.
The case is likely to spark strong interest in France, following the killing of seven people near Toulouse last year by Mohammed Merah, a jihadist who had spent several months in Pakistan.
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe