French mom reunited with girl taken by ‘jihadi’ father
A young French mother whose daughter had been smuggled out of the country by her father arrived home with the two-year-old girl on Wednesday after they were reunited earlier in Turkey.
Meriam Rhaiem, 25, made headlines in March with an emotional appeal to French authorities to recognize her baby girl as “the youngest French hostage.”
Mother and daughter arrived at Villacoublay air base outside Paris at 2:15 a.m. Wednesday (0115 GMT) aboard a plane chartered by the French interior ministry.
“It’s a moment of great emotion with the arrival of Meriam Rhaiem and her daughter Assia, after months of waiting,” said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve who went out onto the tarmac to meet the plane.
“The trials this young woman has endured, fighting hard for the return of her daughter who was kidnapped in circumstances which we aren’t clear,” he added.
He thanked the Turkish authorities for their role in the family reunion which led to “the best possible outcome.”
Rhaiem, holding her child in a blanket and flanked by her lawyer who was also on the plane from Turkey, made no comment upon her arrival.
Rhaiem, who lives in eastern France, had said she was certain her French husband, who she is divorcing, and who is wanted under an international arrest warrant, was in Syria where he was seeking to join radicals.
The father was arrested last weekend with their daughter Assia in Turkey, where he is still being held, a French Interior Ministry source said.
Assia’s father planned to cross into Syria with their daughter to join the Al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate.
According to Rhaiem’s lawyer Gabriel Versini-Bullara, her husband had become radicalized, asking her to wear the veil, criticizing her for working or banning her from playing music to Assia.