Ex-red cross worker held over 'pact' with Islamists

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A former Red Cross worker in Timbuktu has been arrested over an alleged “pact” with Islamists who occupied the desert city in northern Mali for months last year, according to several sources.

The unnamed official, a Malian local representative for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Timbuktu, came under the spotlight after he was mentioned in police interrogations by French Islamist suspect Gilles Le Guen.

“After the declarations of the French jihadist Le Guen before his removal to Paris, we found it necessary to interrogate in Bamako the former ICRC representative to Timbuktu, because he is now believed to have sided with jihadists,” said a Malian security source.

Alexander Faite, the ICRC's representative in Bamako, confirmed the arrest “by the security services”.

“We do not want to make judgments before the end of the investigation,” Faite said, adding that his former colleague would have met “all parties” as part of his mission in Timbuktu.

A member of the suspect's family said his interrogation was part of a “conspiracy” against him.

“My parents have just made a complaint in Bamako in (another) matter, and at the same time he is arrested. This is a conspiracy, the truth will prevail,” the family member said, without elaborating.

Al Qaeda-linked militants occupied the main towns of northern Mali for several months last year, committing atrocities in the name of sharia law, before being ousted by a French-led military intervention launched in January.

Le Guen, 58, who goes by the name Abdel Jelil, was detained by French forces near Timbuktu in April. He is believed to have joined the North African militant organization Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb after moving to Mali with his family.

He has been handed over to the French DCRI intelligence agency in Paris for questioning, according to a security source.

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