Charlie Hebdo suspect arrested in Djibouti

Peter Cherif was a veteran of conflicts in Yemen, Iraq and Syria

epa07242945 A poster reads 'Je suis Charlie' (I am Charlie) amid symbolic pens and pencils on Place de la Republique as people gather for a minute of silence commemorating those killed in a shooting at French satirical magazine 'Charlie Hebdo', in Paris, France, 08 January 2015 (reissued 21 December 2018). According to local media, French authorities have taken a suspected jihadi, linked to the men who attacked the Charlie Hebdo headquarters, in to custody in Paris.  EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT
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A French terrorist suspected of involvement in the 2015 attack on satirical publication Charlie Hebdo has been arrested in Djibouti.

Peter Cherif, 36, also known as Abu Hamza is expected to be extradited to France and was a mentor to Cherif and Said Kouachi, who killed 12 people on January 7, 2015 in Paris.

The two brothers assaulted Charlie Hebdo, angered by the magazines crude and offensive depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. They died two days later after a shootout with French police.

Cherif, was a petty criminal as a youngster, often involved in robberies, who then converted to Islam in the late 1990s. He was a veteran in the Yemen, Syria Iraq conflicts, and had long been monitored by French intelligence agencies to according to Le Figaro.

The French daily reported that Cherif was captured by American forces in Fallujah, Iraq in December 2004 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2006. He escaped in March 2007 from a jail north of Mosul and reportedly headed to Syria.

Cherif decided to hand himself into French authorities in 2008 but disappeared while standing trial in 2011 and headed to Yemen.

It was there where he is said to have met and trained the Kouachi brothers in 2011.


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"It's very good news because this terrorist played an important part in the planning of the attack against Charlie Hebdo," defence minister Florence Parly told RTL radio.

"It shows the fight against terrorism is a long-haul action and that if you stay committed, you obtain results,” she added.

He was arrested on Sunday but the development only reported for the first time on Thursday.

Meanwhile French prosecutors are calling for 14 people to stand trial in connection with the Charlie Hebdo attack, according to judicial sources cited by AFP. The recently arrested Cherif is not among the 14.