Tags: Report: | Taliban | Prisoners | Include | Frenchmen

Report: Taliban Prisoners Include Frenchmen

Tuesday, 29 January 2002 12:00 AM

The report adds to growing speculation that there are French citizens among the prisoners at Camp X-Ray, although the French government has yet to confirm this.

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that Washington had alerted the French government that two or three French nationals might be at Guantanamo. He said the count could be as high as six, if prisoners awaiting transfer to Guantanamo are included.

The spokesman reiterated France's urging that the prisoners be treated according to international norms.

According to Le Parisien, French authorities are still trying to verify whether the passports of the six are authentic, or have been stolen or forged. But if true, the news may increase international pressure on the United States to apply the Geneva Conventions to the 158 suspected terrorists held captive at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

The detainees claim an array of nationalities, including French, British, Danish, Algerian and Yemeni, according to European press reports.

Paris has been more circumspect than several other European countries in criticizing the treatment of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners. Senior members of the Bush administration are reportedly split over whether the Geneva Convention should apply to the Guantanamo detainees.

"France has indicated to American authorities since Jan. 15 that all the prisoners, regardless of their judicial status or nationality, must benefit from all the guarantees under international law," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday, "notably those dealing with their conditions of detention."

The Central Intelligence Agency transmitted a bulletin to French authorities with the names of half a dozen detainees who identified themselves as French, Le Parisien reported.

They included: Mustafa Abd al Rahman Huwari, 21; Jean-Baptiste Mihoud, 21; Khalid Ridouane, 34; Nizar Sassi, 22, Jean Christian Olivier, 45, and Khaled ben Mustafa, 30. The men were reportedly born in French cities including Paris, Lyon and Bordeaux. Earlier reports identified two other suspected Taliban guerrillas as French, including Herve Djamel Loiseau, 28, who reportedly was found dead from cold and hunger in Aghanistan's Tora Bora region. On Monday, the French Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed that U.S. officials and the International Red Cross had identified possible French prisoners at Guantanamo, and that a French mission had been dispatched last week to ascertain their identities.

"At this moment, we have no certainty about the existence, the number and the identity of French nationals among those detained," he said.

On Monday, Le Figaro newspaper reported seven Frenchmen were being held at Guantanamo, but did not identify them. According to the newspaper, most were born to immigrant parents, spent time at terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and later moved back to the gritty suburbs of Paris, Marseilles or Lille.

Le Parisien provided further details Tuesday on the possible French detainees, including an interview with the wife and best friend of suspect Khaled ben Mustapha.

Both described Mustapha as a "tolerant, religious" family man. Born in Lyon to Tunisian parents, Mustapha reportedly worked as a computer technician near Paris and was the father of two boys. He disappeared in July, after a family dispute, his wife, Sylvie, told Le Parisien. "I have since asked myself many questions," she told the newspaper.

Le Parisien reported that French authorities believe Mustapha provided logistical support to Islamist extremists.

A number of Frenchmen have been arrested as suspected terrorists in France and overseas, including Zacharias Massaoui, charged in the United States in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. Others are linked to a plot to blow up the American Embassy in Paris. In addition, French authorities are reportedly investigating whether shoe-bomb suspect Richard Reid had ties with Islamist cells. Reid spent several days in Paris, before boarding an American Airlines flight on Dec. 22.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The report adds to growing speculation that there are French citizens among the prisoners at Camp X-Ray, although the French government has yet to confirm this. A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that Washington had alerted the French government that two or...
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Tuesday, 29 January 2002 12:00 AM
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