A French member of Islamic State has been sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail. Salim Benghalem, who has been linked to last year’s Charlie Hebdo attacks, is believed to be in Syria with the jihadist group and is subject to an international arrest warrant.  Six other individuals, the majority of whom returned from Syria and Iraq to France, were given prison sentences of between six and nine years.

Thirty-five-year-old Benghalem, who is still at large, is believed to have had links to Said and Cherif Kouachi who carried out the terror attacks on the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris on January 7, 2015. French intelligence also believe he is a key figure within Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and plays a major role in helping to recruit new jihadi fighters.
Benghalem, who originates from outside of Paris and has Algerian ancestry, was jailed in 2007 for participating in gang violence. However, he was released in 2010 and is believed to have fled to Yemen, a security source revealed, as cited by AFP.

In February, the 35-year-old jihadist appeared in a propaganda video, where he praised the Charlie Hebdo attacks and warned of more violence. Le Monde newspaper reported in October that Benghalem was the target of a French airstrike over Raqqa, the terror group’s de facto “capital.”
Of those sent to jail, five of the six had traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight for the terrorist group.
The sentencing of the jihadists comes a day after Paris was rocked by an attempted terror attack on the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

A man wielding a meat cleaver was shot dead by law enforcement officers after he tried to enter a police station on Thursday. He was heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” and wearing what turned out to be a fake suicide belt.