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TERRORISM

Suspected jihadist released from prison in France by mistake

French authorities have confirmed that a suspected jihadist who together with his family allegedly planned a bomb attack in Lyon in 2014 was released from prison by mistake.

Suspected jihadist released from prison in France by mistake
Photos: AFP

France’s Justice Ministry publicly announced on Wednesday August 22 that Paris prisoner Oualid B. was released on April 3 due to a serious gaffe by an examining magistrate. 

The wrongful release, first revealed by France’s Le Canard Enchainé (a satirical newspaper with a long history of political and business leaks), has been described by government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux as a “serious fiasco.”

Oualid B, in custody since August 2016, is suspected by France’s Homeland Security of having belonged to small family business dedicated to jihad.

Together with his siblings and other relatives, they are believed to be behind a foiled attack in Lyon in 2014 and are due to stand trial in Paris in November.

But an investigating judge forgot to renew Oualid B’s provisional detention, which resulted in his automatic release.

The Ministry of Justice has assured the pubic that the defendant was subject to “very strict judicial control” but the evidence suggests otherwise.

According to Le Canard Enchainé , the investigating judge has been summoned by his superiors and asked to stand down, which he has since refused to do.

The negligent handling of Oualid B’s case is further consolidated by the fact that in May, while under legal supervision, he was arrested outside the authorized perimeter, driving without a license.

His mobile phone was found to contain images of weapon-wielding jihadists and an Islamic State propaganda film.

Even though Oualid B. stood before a judge almost immediately in Meaux (Seine-et-Marne), he was told he could walk free.

The prosecutor's office, who had called for ten months of arrest, appealed and managed to schedule a retrial for September 13 in Paris.

Oualid B. is one of fifteen people (mainly family members) believed to have plotted a jihadist attack in Lyon in 2014. Eight of them however fled to Iraq and Syria before they could be arrested.

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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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