The 37-year-old man, named as ‘Djamel’ by Le Parisien, was arrested in northern Mali earlier this month, according to the French daily, for allegedly being a member of a jihadist group fighting against French and Malian government soldiers. He is being held in the Paris region after being extradited from Mali, according to a report by the Parisien on Tuesday.
Recent revelations that French citizens were among Islamist militants fighting in Mali have caused concern throughout France and in particular among a government increasingly wary of the threat posed by homegrown terrorists.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Parisien, Djamel's sister, given the alias Sonia, said: “He has betrayed his family. He has betrayed France. And he has also betrayed himself… He has hurt everyone, and now he must pay."
“Since I found out he was in Mali, he hasn’t been my brother any more. He’s not a member of this family any more. What he did is the worst of the worst – fighting against French troops, when it was France that raised him, allowed him to study, to work, to find a wife, and have children,” she added.
In 2005 the father of three got divorced from his wife after which his sister said Djamel began attending the mosque more frequently and grew distant from his family.
At that point Djamel grew a beard, started associating with men known locally for indoctrinating youths, and “from time to time he talked about joining Al Qaeda,” though these claims were largely ignored by his family.
His sister also claimed that Djamel had been a former member of France's police force. But this was subsequently denied by authorities who said the suspected jihadist had applied to join the police but was twice rejected.
Earlier in March it was revealed that another French citizen, Ibrahim Aziz Ouattara, 25, had been arrested on November 3rd in central Mali on his way to join a group of Islamists, after allegedly entering Mali through Portugal under a false identity.
Ouattara, who is also a Malian citizen, faces potential terrorism charges in France.