October 8, 2013 / 5:18 PM / 4 years ago

French police detain suspected Islamist sent from Pakistan

PARIS (Reuters) - A Frenchman held in Pakistan for months on suspicion of training Islamist militants was detained for questioning by French police on his return home, an official at the Paris prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

Naamen Meziche was arrested on a bus along with three other French nationals in southwestern Pakistan in May 2012 on suspicion of training jihadi networks and preparing terrorist attacks, the official said.

Pakistan deported the three to France in April and they have been held since then on suspicion of conspiring to commit terrorist acts.

Meziche, who is of Algerian origin, was held in Pakistan until Monday evening. French security officials suspect him of being a member of al Qaeda.

“We hope that confronting Meziche with the three others will enable us to find out more about this cell and its exact role within al Qaeda,” the prosecutor’s office aide said, declining to give further details.

No lawyer for Meziche could immediately be reached for comment.

According to French and German media reports, Meziche lived a large part of his life in Hamburg in northern Germany.

He attended the same Hamburg mosque as some of the men behind the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and he knew their ringleader, Mohammed Atta, according to the reports.

French officials say they are increasingly worried about the threat of their own nationals travelling abroad to fight in Syria’s civil war and one day returning to carry out attacks at home.

Dozens of Frenchmen travel each year to remote places in Africa and Asia viewed as strongholds of al Qaeda to train or fight as Islamist militants, security sources say.

Many are arrested on their return to France.

A man who killed seven people in Toulouse in March last year, Mohamed Merah, had also previously travelled to Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan.

Reporting By Gerard Bon and John Irish; editing by Tom Pfeiffer

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