'Indian Al Qaeda activist arrested in France was SIMI man'

Mohammed Niaz, originally from Madurai, was arrested at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris May 10 on his arrival from Algeria, where he had developed links with an Al Qaeda franchise.

“It is reported that Niaz has been arrested in France for his links with the terror group that is recruiting people for jihad in the Pakistan and Afghanistan region,” Chidambaram told reporters here.

Chidambaram said the inputs that the government has on him indicated that he was a trained activist “with a militant bent of mind”.

“At the age of 21, he joined the SIMI based in Tamil Nadu. He has been on the radar of Indian intelligence agencies before being arrested (in France),” the home minister said.
Niaz was among seven suspected terrorists held by French authorities earlier this month. But the French government has not linked them with any specific plan to carry out attacks in that country.

After his arrest, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant had described Niaz as a man with a high level of technical training.

Niaz's mother is said to be living in south India but his father has shifted to the Gulf many years ago.

Chidambaram said Niaz first arrived in France in 2008 to find a job. “In a short period of time, he was able to build a nucleus of like-minded jihadis in France that consists of four French nationals of Moroccan origin, one French national of Turkish origin, one French national of Pakistani origin and two others.”

He said Niaz used to held monthly jihadi meetings which later became weekly meetings.

“Further investigation is underway and we are in a close touch with French,” the home minister said.

French authorities have so far not said what charges were being pressed against Niaz.

According to reports, he was under the scanner of France's domestic intelligence agency, DCRI, because of his close association with highly radicalized Muslims there and his frequent trips to Pakistan from Algeria.

He is said to be associated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, one of the Al Qaida's franchises, in Algeria.

The group has vowed to carry out attacks against France and other western nations.


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