Police question suspected French Islamists sent from Pakistan

PARIS Thu Apr 4, 2013 11:46am EDT

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PARIS (Reuters) - Two Frenchmen held in Pakistan for months on suspicion of training as Islamist militants have been taken in for questioning by French police on their return home, French judicial and diplomatic sources said on Thursday.

The men, in their thirties and from Orleans near Paris, were arrested along with two other Frenchmen in southwestern Pakistan in May last year, a judicial source told Reuters.

After ten months of questioning, Pakistan released three this week and sent them to Paris, French and Pakistani diplomatic sources said. The third, also in his thirties, was sent home on Thursday and has yet to be questioned in France.

The judicial source said the fourth man, whom French media named as Naamen Meziche, a suspected al Qaeda cadre, was still being held in Pakistan awaiting his return to France.

The man who killed seven people in Toulouse in March last year, Mohamed Merah, had also previously traveled to Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan, according to French officials.

Dozens of Frenchmen travel each year to remote areas in Africa and southeast Asia controlled by al Qaeda for training or combat as Islamist militants, security sources say. Authorities arrest them systematically upon their return to France.

The threat of militants coming home to plan attacks on French soil has grown since President Francois Hollande launched a military intervention in Mali to help local forces repel an offensive by al Qaeda-linked militants, officials say.

In February, police arrested four suspected Islamist militants near Paris as part of an investigation into the recruitment of volunteers by al Qaeda insurgents in Mali - a threat that judicial sources says is growing.

(Reporting by Gerard Bon, Michael Georgy in Islamabad and John Irish; Writing by Nick Vinocur; Editing by Jason Webb)

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