France troops capture suspected French jihadist in Mali

PARIS Tue Apr 30, 2013 3:03pm EDT

PARIS (Reuters) - A suspected French jihadist has been captured by French forces in Mali, the defense ministry in Paris said on Tuesday, one of a handful of French nationals in the Sahel suspected of fighting against their own country.

French authorities had been searching for Gilles Le Guen since October, when he published a YouTube video in which he warned France, the United States and the United Nations not to interfere in Mali.

"I confirm the capture of a French terrorist in Mali by the French Army," a defense ministry spokesman told Reuters.

He said the man was Le Guen and that he was captured during the night of April 28.

"For the moment, he is being held by French forces and should be turned over to Malian authorities," he said.

A handful of French nationals are known to have travelled to the Sahel region in northern Mali to train to fight for Islamist militants, according to diplomatic sources.

France intervened in Mali in January in order to stop al Qaeda linked militants from overrunning the West African nation and to prevent it from becoming a base for attacks on the West.

Media reports said Le Guen, originally from Brittany, was known as Abdel Jelil.

RTL radio said Le Guen had been captured last year by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who accused him of being a spy for the West, but the group later released him.

In the YouTube video, the man identified as Le Guen said he was a former officer in the merchant marine who had also worked for French humanitarian group Medicins Sans Frontieres.

Last month, a French jihadist was captured by French soldiers in northern Mali and sent to France, where he was being investigated on terrorism charges.

Another French national was arrested in Mali in November on suspicion of entering the country illegally in order to set up a jihadist cell.

(Reporting by Marion Douet and Alexandria Sage; Editing by Jon Hemming)