Paris: One of France's most wanted extemists, considered a potential source of valuable information by Western intelligence agencies, is set to return to prison Thursday following seven years on the run.
Peter Cherif, 36, was close to the brothers who massacred staff members of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015. He later became a high-ranking member of Al Qaida in Yemen.
French authorities have been seeking him since he disappeared in 2011 on the final day of his trial in Paris for fighting in Iraq alongside Al Qaida in 2004.
Cherif, who was sentenced to five years in prison in the trial, was arrested on December 16 in Djibouti after arriving from Yemen carrying fake ID documents, according to the presidency of the Horn of Africa country.
He arrived back in France on Sunday and has since refused to speak to investigators during questioning, according to a source close to the probe.
On Thursday he appeared before a judge and was given a new "terrorist conspiracy" charge before returning to prison, a judicial source told AFP.
Investigators opened a new investigation in 2017 into his activities in Yemen, where he joined the senior ranks of the local branch of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The United States considers AQAP to be the jihadist group's most dangerous branch, with US drone strikes on the outfit increasing since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.
Cherif, also known as Abou Hamza, was placed on the US blacklist of foreign terrorists in 2015.
He has been a figure of interest for French police investigating a trio of attacks in January 2015 that left 17 people dead, including at Charlie Hebdo's offices and a kosher supermarket in Paris.
But despite media reports suggesting he may have played a role in the attacks, he is not the subject of an arrest warrant in the Charlie Hebdo probe.
The attack on the magazine marked the start of a wave of attacks by radicals in France which have claimed more than 240 lives.
After his arrest in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004, Cherif was sentenced to 15 years in jail in Baghdad before escaping in 2007 and heading to Syria.
He was extradited to France before slipping away again during his trial.