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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 January 2019

Charlie Hebdo suspect detained in France

Peter Cherif held at airport after seven years on the run

French national Peter Cherif steps out of a car at Djibouti International Airport as he is extradited to France. AFP
French national Peter Cherif steps out of a car at Djibouti International Airport as he is extradited to France. AFP

The French authorities have charged a fugitive suspected of helping to organise the 2015 attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

Peter Cherif was charged and taken into custody after arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport from Djibouti where he was arrested a week ago. France's defence minister says he played an “important role in organising” the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Mr Cherif, also known as Abu Hamza, was a close friend of two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, who killed 11 people at Charlie Hebdo's offices and a policeman nearby in Paris.

The two brothers attacked Charlie Hebdo, angered by the magazines crude and offensive depictions of the Prophet Mohammed. They died two days later after a shootout with French police.

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Mr Cherif converted to Islam in the late 1990s and was a veteran in the Yemen, Syria and Iraq conflicts. The French daily Le Monde reported that Mr Cherif was captured by American forces in Fallujah, Iraq in December 2004 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2006. He escaped in March 2007 from a jail north of Mosul and reportedly headed to Syria.

Cherif decided to hand himself into French authorities in 2008 but disappeared while standing trial in 2011 and headed to Yemen. It was there where he is said to have met and trained the Kouachi brothers in 2011. He has been on the run since then.

Updated: December 23, 2018 08:17 PM

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