Last month, Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa penned a story for Foreign Policy about Gilles Le Guen, a French citizen who had converted to Islam and joined up with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) during its occupation of the northern Malian town of Timbuktu. Doornbos and Moussa described how AQIM eventually grew suspicious of Le Guen, who styled himself as "Abdul Jalil al-Fransi," and launched a full investigation to determine if he was a French spy.
While al Qaeda’s investigation ended inconclusively, we may finally have an answer to the question of whether Le Guen was a spy or a true believer. French troops captured him north of Timbuktu on Sunday night. They will hand him over to Malian authorities, and he will likely then be expelled to France.
Le Guen won’t receive a warm welcome in his home country: The French defense minister, who described him as a "loser who became a terrorist," said an investigation was underway to determine what criminal charges could be brought against him.
Above, a video message that Le Guen recorded in support of al Qaeda’s goals in North Africa, released on Oct. 9.
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| Turtle Bay |