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French mum reunited with two-year-old daughter taken by alleged jihadi father in October

The father was arrested in Turkey last weekend with their daughter Assia.

File Photo
File Photo
Image: mother and daughter via Shutterstock

A YOUNG FRENCH woman has arrived home with her two-year-old daughter who was smuggled out of the country by her father.

Meriam Rhaiem, 25, made headlines in March with an emotional appeal to French authorities to recognise her baby girl as “the youngest French hostage”.

The father had failed to bring his daughter home after spending the day with her in October last year.

He left France by road bound for Turkey, from where he called his wife regularly and asked her to come and join them.

He had also said he planned to cross into Syria with their daughter to join the Al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate.

The father was arrested in Turkey last weekend with their daughter Assia, where he is still being held.

Rhaiem and her daughter were reunited in Turkey and arrived at Villacoublay air base outside Paris in the early hours of this morning aboard a plane chartered by the French interior ministry.

“It’s a moment of great emotion with the arrival of Meriam Rhaiem and her daughter Assia, after months of waiting,” said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve who went out onto the tarmac to meet the plane.

The trials this young woman has endured, fighting hard for the return of her daughter who was kidnapped in circumstances which we aren’t clear on.

Radicalised 

According to Rhaiem’s lawyer, Gabriel Versini-Bullara, her husband had become radicalised after travelling to Mecca, asking her to wear the veil, criticising her for working or banning her from playing music to Assia.

He thanked the Turkish authorities for their role in the family reunion which led to “the best possible outcome”.

Rhaiem, holding her child in a blanket and flanked by her lawyer who was also on the plane from Turkey, made no comment upon her arrival.

She had said she was certain her French husband, who she is divorcing, and who is wanted under an international arrest warrant, was in Syria where he was seeking to join jihadists.

France has expressed concern over radicalised people leaving the country to fight in Iraq and Syria, with fears that they could pose a risk to domestic security on their return.

According to official estimates, around 800 French nationals or residents – including several dozen women – have travelled to Syria, returned from the conflict-ridden country or plan to go there.

France unveiled a bill in July aimed at stopping aspiring jihadists from travelling to Syria. It includes a ban on foreign travel of up to six months for individuals suspected of radicalisation, and gives authorities powers to temporarily confiscate and invalidate their passports.

© AFP 2014

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