Syria-bound relative of Charlie Hebdo killer arrested

Police and soldiers from the Belgian Army secure an area in front of the Belgian Prime Minister's office. Photo / AP
Police and soldiers from the Belgian Army secure an area in front of the Belgian Prime Minister's office. Photo / AP

A student cleared of being the "third man" in the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris has been arrested for allegedly trying to join Isis (Islamic State) in Syria.

Mourad Hamyd, 20, the brother-in-law of one of the two Kouachi brothers, who murdered 12 people in and around the office of the satirical magazine in January last year, was initially suspected of being their getaway driver.

The quiet, polite young man surrendered to police in his home town of Charleville-Mézières in eastern France and was questioned over two days. A huge social media campaign protesting for his innocence and alibis from his classmates led to his release without charge.

Hamyd remained on a terrorist watch list, but appeared to be a model student, passing his baccalauréat exams five months later. He spoke of his shock that his name had been linked to "barbaric crimes", saying he hoped it would not spoil his future.

Hamyd had completed his first year at university when his family reported him missing on July 25. Three days later, he was turned back as he allegedly tried to enter Turkey. He is now in custody in Bulgaria, it emerged today.

He managed to slip out of France undetected by French security agencies despite being on the watch list. The contents of his travel bag - a uniform, heavy shoes and gloves - seem to indicate that he was a "candidate for jihad" rather than a visitor planning to sunbathe on a Turkish beach, French intelligence sources told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

His mobile phone and laptop are now being scrutinised for evidence of jihadist links. Anti-terrorism prosecutors in Paris have opened a judicial investigation in order to issue a European arrest warrant for him," the paper reported.

Hamyd was the brother-in-law of Chérif Kouachi, who attacked Charlie Hebdo with his brother Said Kouachi.

Meanwhile, a machete-wielding man who wounded two Belgian policewomen was a 33-year-old Algerian who was living illegally in the country, officials said as Isis claimed the assault.

The Isis-linked Amaq Agency said one of the group's "soldiers" carried out the attack "in response to calls to target citizens" of countries which have joined a US-led coalition bombing the jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

The assailant died after being shot by a third policewoman.

Belgian prosecutors said today that the man, whose initials were given as K.B. "had a criminal record but was not known for terrorism".

He had been living in Belgium since 2012, they said.

The junior minister for migration, Theo Francken, said K.B. had been living illegally in Belgium and had "twice been ordered to leave the country".

Francken - a Flemish nationalist in Belgium's fragile coalition Government - said he would float proposals for accelerating "the forced return of illegal residents".

Ahead of the Isis claim, Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters that an investigation was underway "for attempted terrorist murder".

Michel, speaking after a meeting of Belgium's security services, repeated investigators' earlier findings that the attacker had shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) during the assault.

The bloody incident took place outside a police station in Charleroi, south of Brussels, where the officers were on guard.

- additional reporting AFP

- Daily Telegraph UK

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