France urges Mali to step up talks with rebels

Associated Press Published: November 15, 2012

France, like many European countries, fears that the arid, northern Sahel region of Mali could become a breeding ground for terrorism, where al-Qaida and its allies could plot hostage-takings and attacks in Europe or beyond.

France has millions of people whose families hail from former French colonies in north and west Africa. Authorities have long been concerned that French-born militants could travel abroad for terrorism training and return home later to possibly carry out attacks.

French authorities are already investigating two French citizens who were arrested in Mali and neighboring Niger and are suspected of seeking to join up with the al-Qaida-linked extremists, a judicial official told The Associated Press.

Ibrahim Ouattara, a 24-year-old native of the northern Paris suburb of Aubervilliers who has dual French and Malian nationality, was arrested inside Mali this month and remains in custody there, the official said.

Separately, a 27-year-old Frenchman was arrested in August in Niger and has since been handed over to authorities in France, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to discuss terrorism cases publicly.

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