French jihadist released by fellow Islamists in Mali
A French Islamist jailed in Mali in November by his fellow jihadists from Al-Qaeda's north African branch has been freed, he said Wednesday.
Abdel Jelil, a French national who was born Gilles Le Guen, according to a Malian security official, joined Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) several months ago but was detained last month by his fellow jihadists, who have seized control of Mali's vast desert north.
Some sources close to the Islamists have said Jelil was suspected of being a spy, others that he fell from favour for reprimanding fellow jihadists who had mistreated some unveiled women.
Jelil was arrested on November 11 in Timbuktu, but was seen on Wednesday driving a motorbike in the northwestern city, dressed in khaki military fatigues.
"Yes, I am free and I am obviously pursuing jihad. That's what I can tell you," he told AFP.
He declined to say why he had been detained or for how long.
Jelil, who is about 50 years old, rose to prominence in October for making a video warning France, the United States and the United Nations against staging a military intervention in Mali.
Speaking in French and sporting a black turban with a rifle at his side, Jelil warned that an intervention would cause "major sedition and a human and humanitarian catastrophe."
In the 11-minute video, Jelil introduced himself as a former merchant navy officer of French origin who had lived in Timbuktu for the past two years with his wife and five children.
Mali was plunged into chaos by a March 22 coup that overthrew president Amadou Toumani Toure and created a power vacuum that enabled Islamist groups including AQIM to seize the north.
The crisis has raised fears the Islamists could use the Texas-sized territory as a base for attacks on Europe and the region. West African nations have approved a 3,300-troop military intervention to root out the Islamists, but are awaiting approval from the United Nations.
© 2012 AFP