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Lottie

Shock over 'French Taliban' Case

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A Paris court has sentenced a French convert to Islam to four years in jail for his association with a militant Islamic network.

Prosecutors had alleged that David Courtailler was linked to a group of Moroccans suspected of involvement in the Madrid bombings which killed 191 people in March.

Just as Americans were shocked by the case of John Walker Lindh - the young American who joined the Taleban - and Britons by that of "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, many in France find it hard it believe that the son of a butcher in Bonneville, a sleepy town in the French Alps could get drawn into the shadowy world of militant Islam.

To his lawyer, Courtailler is a naive young man who stumbled into a nest of extremists but never became one himself.

But to those who track the networks of al-Qaeda and its allies in Europe and North Africa, his story is an example of how cleverly these groups recruit young Muslims - including converts - whose backgrounds, passports and language skills are potentially of great use to them.

Murky

Courtailler's odyssey begins, incongruously, in the British seaside resort of Brighton, where in 1997 he became a Muslim while trying to kick a drug habit.

It moves to Afghanistan, where he underwent military training, and then shifts to Spain and Morocco.

There he seems to have befriended a group of Moroccans who are thought to be implicated in the Casablanca bombings last year - and the more recent bombings in Madrid.

His brother Jerome - also a convert to Islam - was arrested in Rotterdam just two days after the 11 September attacks in America, but subsequently acquitted of involvement in a plot to blow up the US embassy in Paris.

As with other such cases, there is much that remains unexplained about the tale of the two brothers from Bonneville.

But what worries politicians and security services throughout Western Europe - especially in the wake of the Madrid bombings - is the thought that, for the last decade, militant Muslim groups have built up networks which criss-cross the continent and are proving hard to unravel.

Source: BBC News

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