France to probe 'jihadist' bungle

France to probe 'jihadist' bungle
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

PARIS - France's interior minister on Wednesday announced a wide-ranging probe into a series of blunders that saw three suspected jihadists waltz out of a French airport after being transferred from Turkish custody.

Authorities were left red-faced after an announcement they had arrested the three men at a Paris airport turned out to be false.

To make matters worse, it emerged the suspected French jihadists had been put on a different plane entirely to the southern city of Marseille, where they were - to their apparent surprise - able to walk freely from the airport on Tuesday.

In another snag, passport control failed to flag the men as suspicious, as a security databank was out of order at the time.

The government was however spared further blushes from the fiasco as the men handed themselves over to police on Wednesday - nearly a day later.

They were due to appear before an anti-terrorist judge.

"There was clearly a massive bungle but it was in large part due to ... the absence of proper collaboration with Turkish authorities," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info radio.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told journalists he had called for an administrative enquiry to "get to the bottom of what happened."

He said he would also soon visit Turkey to avoid a repeat of the "malfunction."

'Incredible ... but true'

The trio included the 29-year-old brother-in-law of Toulouse jihadist Mohamed Merah, who was shot dead by police after he murdered seven people, including three children, in a 2012 killing spree.

A 27-year-old previously convicted over terrorism-related charges and links to a jihadist group, was also one of the three arrested in Turkey.

The interior ministry claimed that after the pilot of the Paris-bound flight refused to allow them on board the Turkish authorities put them on the flight to Marseille.

But it insisted that Paris did not become aware of the last-minute change of plan until after the men had landed on French soil.

One of the trio's lawyers, Pierre Dunac, said the men were not questioned when they landed. "As incredible as it might seem, it's true."

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