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Death of most wanted French jihadist ‘confirmed by DNA tests’

DNA test results have confirmed that a jihadist, described as France's most wanted terrorist after inspiring several terror attacks on French soil, has been killed in a drone strike in Iraq, according to media reports on Wednesday.

Death of most wanted French jihadist 'confirmed by DNA tests'
Photo: AFP

The death of French jihadist Rachid Kassim, suspected of inspiring several attacks in France, has been confirmed by DNA tests according to reports in France on Wednesday.

France's LCI media were the first to report the confirmation saying American secret services had the proof through DNA test results that Kassim, who was targeted in a drone strike earlier this month, had indeed been killed.

The reports, which have not yet been officially confirmed, come after The Pentagon revealed last Friday that Kassim was targeted in a coalition air strike near the Iraqi city of Mosul.

While several French media outlets had reported Kassim's death, authorities in France and the US preferred to play it safe.

“We can confirm that coalition forces targeted Rashid Kassim, a senior Isis operative, near Mosul in a strike in the past 72 hours,” said Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway on Friday.

“We are currently assessing the results of that strike and will provide more information when it becomes available.”

Also on Friday in Paris, a high-ranking official involved in counterterror operations told AFP on condition of anonymity there was not “absolute confirmation” of his death, but that the probability was high.

Kassim, in his 30s, is believed to have inspired an attack last year in which a senior French policeman and his partner were knifed to death and another in which an elderly priest was killed when his throat was cut.

He is suspected of using the encrypted Telegram app to direct attacks on France from Isis-controlled territory in Iraq or Syria.

Originally from Roanne in the Loire Valley, Kassim is suspected of guiding the attacks in France from Syria and has launched on the internet numerous murderous appeals.

Dressed in fatigues with a turban on his head, the black-bearded Kassim was seen in July in an Isis propaganda video in which he praised the attacker in the Nice truck massacre that killed 86 people on the July 14 Bastille Day holiday.

US-backed Iraqi forces are currently battling to take back the remaining western districts of Mosul that are still under Isis control.

France, which is taking part in the US-led, anti-Isis coalition in Iraq and Syria, has been the target of a series of jihadist attacks since 2015 that left 238 people dead.

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IS

France charges jihadi with murder in IS territory

France on Friday charged a man with murder days after his expulsion from Turkey, holding him in custody over crimes alleged to have taken place in jihadist-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria.

France charges jihadi with murder in IS territory
People walk under a billboard erected by the Islamic State (IS) group as part of a campaign in the IS controlled Syrian city of Raqqa in 2014. Photo: Raqa Media Center / AFP
Using the pseudonym “Abou Salman al Faransi”, 26-year-old Othman Garrido is believed to have arrived in the region in 2012, where anti-terror prosecutors (PNAT) say he committed “murder in connection with a terrorist undertaking” and joined a “terrorist conspiracy”.
   
He is believed to have played an important role in and have information on the French jihadist scene.
   
A judge on Friday ordered him jailed provisionally after he spent the week in police custody.
   
“Based on photographs of abuses where he is visible”, Garrido “was likely involved in other murders in Iraq and Syria” being probed in a separate investigation, PNAT said.
 
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Prosecutors suspect him of three murders in total, although they have not been able to precisely date the crimes.
   
France has had an arrest warrant out since 2016 for Garrido, a native of southern city Montpellier.
   
Turkish forces captured him near the Syrian border in July, and handed him over under a Paris-Ankara deal covering the return of French jihadists.
   
A youth court sentenced Garrido in 2017 to 15 years in jail for joining the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, where he trained and fought as well as attempting to incite violence by French Muslims.
 
   
After burning his French passport, Garrido urged Muslims to kill “infidels” in a seven-minute video distributed by IS' communications arm in 2014.
   
He was flanked in that recording by two other French jihadists using the pseudonyms Abou Ousama al Faransi and Abou Maryam al Faransi.   
 
Garrido's parents and two of his brothers have also received jailed sentences of 10 and 15 years. It is unclear whether his brothers, who also travelled to Syria, remain alive.
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