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Page last updated at 14:51 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 15:51 UK

French Iraq recruiters are jailed

Shadow of an armed man in Iraq
French nationals have been identified among Iraqi insurgents

A French court has convicted seven men accused of recruiting young Muslims in Paris to fight against America-led forces in Iraq.

The sentences ranged from 18 months in prison to seven years in prison, with the cell's ringleader being jailed for six years.

The men were tracked down and arrested after a young Frenchman was found dead in the Iraqi city of Falluja in 2004.

Five of the seven men are French and the other two are from North Africa.

They were arrested in 2005, suspected of being part of an Islamist cell recruiting volunteers to join the Iraqi insurgency.

All the accused had denied the charges.

One of the group's ringleaders, Farid Benyettou, 27, was sentenced to six years in jail.

Boubakeur el-Hakim, 24, whose brother was killed in Iraq and himself fought in the country, was said to have incited friends from France to join him in suicide missions in Baghdad. He was given seven years.

Training camps

The BBC's Alasdair Sandford says the group gained the nickname the "19th arrondissement cell" after the Paris district where most of those on trial grew up.

Investigators said they sent about a dozen Muslims to camps linked to al-Qaeda, although most of those on trial never made it to Iraq themselves.

Our correspondent says security services feared that trained fighters might return and commit terrorist atrocities in France, but no evidence of this was presented in court.

Three of the convicted men given lesser sentences are not expected to return to prison, having already spent several months behind bars.



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