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TERRORISM

Suspected French jihadist to be deported from Iraq after sentence served

An Iraqi court ordered the release and deportation of a suspected French jihadist sentenced Monday to seven months in prison for entering the country illegally, saying she had already served her time.

Suspected French jihadist to be deported from Iraq after sentence served
French Jihadist Melina Bougedir arriving in court in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. Photo: AFP
Melina Bougedir, 27, was arrested last summer in former Islamic State group stronghold Mosul with her four children, three of whom have been repatriated to France.
   
Wearing a black dress and purple headscarf, she entered the courtroom holding her other child, a boy with blond hair.
   
Speaking in Arabic, she said that she had been a housewife in Mosul.
   
“I entered Syria with my French passport but Daesh (Isis) took it from me. I stayed in Syria for four days and then came to Mosul with my husband and four children”.
 
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Wanted dead, not alive: France's approach to French jihadists
Photos: AFP   
 
She said that her French husband Maximilien, whom she said had been a cook for Isis, was killed as Iraqi forces battled to oust the jihadist group from Mosul, which was recaptured last July.
   
Asked her if she regretted what she did, she replied: “Yes”.
 
Iraq in December declared victory against IS after a years-long battle to retake large swathes of territory the extremists had seized in 2014.
 
An Iraqi court last month condemned a German woman to death by hanging after finding her guilty of belonging to Isis, the first such sentence in a case involving a European woman.
   
Soon afterwards, lawyers for Bougedir and another French woman awaiting trial in Iraq for allegedly joining Isis wrote to French President Emmanuel Macron warning that they could face the death penalty.
   
Several dozen French citizens suspected of links to the jihadist group are believed to be in detention camps or prisons in Syria and Iraq.
   
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in Baghdad last week that suspected jihadists should be tried in the countries where they committed their “crimes”, while reiterating France's opposition to the death penalty.
 
In October, France's Defence Minister Florence Parly told reporters: “We are committed along with our allies to the destruction of Daesh (Islamic State) and we're doing everything to that end,” Defence Minister Florence Parly.
 
 
France in struggle to confirm jihadists' deaths
Photo: AFP
 
French citizens are among the biggest contingent of overseas fighters who have joined Isis, with around 1,000 nationals estimated by counter-terror officials to have travelled to Iraq and Syria. 
   
Britain has also taken a firm stance against repatriation, as has Belgium which denied a request by one of its nationals to be sent home from Iraq in exchange for cooperating with the authorities.
   
Several hundred foreigners, both men and women, are thought to have been detained in Iraq for alleged links to IS.
   
In December, a Swedish man of Iraqi origin was among 38 people executed after being convicted of “terrorism”.
   
And on Sunday an Iraqi court sentenced a Turkish woman to death and 11 other foreign widows to life in jail for belonging to IS, despite their pleas that they had been duped or forced by their husbands to join them in Iraq.
   
A total of 509 foreign women, including 300 Turks, are being held in Iraq with 813 children, according to a security source.

TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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