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France expels Islamist linked to 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack

FILE PHOTO: Muslim demonstrators hold placards during a protest against the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad in French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, near Downing Street in central London February 8, 2015

France on Monday expelled an Islamist suspected of being a spiritual tutor to one of the killers in the attack on Charlie Hebdo newspaper and to one of the attackers at a Jewish supermarket in 2015.

Djamel Beghal was put on a plane to Algeria as soon as he was freed from jail after serving a sentence for taking part in the attempted jailbreak of a top Armed Islamic Group member.

Beghal, who had both Algerian and French nationalities, was stripped of his French citizenship.

His expulsion to Algiers might be followed by a second transfer to another African country as part of negotiations between France and Algeria, a source with security issues in Algiers said, naming Burkina Faso as a possible destination.

Investigators have suspected Beghal of having been a mentor to Cherif Kouachi, one of two brothers who attacked satirical daily Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, and to Amedy Coulibaly, who days later killed four people in the Hyper Cacher Jewish supermarket and a policewoman.

Seventeen people died in the January 2015 attacks, a killing spree that shocked the world and preceded further even deadlier attacks.

Beghal, Coulibaly and Kouachi had crossed paths in prison in 2005 and again five years later in rural France.

Axel Metzker, a lawyer for victims of the Hyper Cacher attack, said he had tried, in vain, to block Beghal’s expulsion.

France’s foreign, interior and justice ministries declined to comment.

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