An Islamist alleged to have mentored the Kouachi brothers who were behind the Charlie Hebdo attack on Wednesday now works as a trainee nurse at the very same Accident and Emergency department that some of the victims of that attack were brought to. He was off-duty at the time of the attack, and authorities have since barred him from returning to work.
Farid Benyettou is known to have recruited a number of candidates from the 19th arrondissement of Paris for jihad in the early 2000s. At the time, the public prosecutor, Jean-Julien Xavier-Rolai, described him as the Kouachi brothers’ “spiritual guide”, and “the link between the suburbs of Fallujah and the 19th arrondissement”, the Telegraph has reported.
Benyettou was jailed in 2008 for criminal association in relation with a terrorist enterprise, but was released in 2011, whereupon he started training a nurse. Last month he began a work placement at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital, where the Charlie Hebdo victims were brought after the attack.
Although he was scheduled to work on the day of the attack, he had been due in on Friday for his next shift. However, according to Le Parisien newspaper, hospital authorities have now removed him from the rota after liaising with police. Under French law, people with a criminal record are barred from working in public hospitals, but this does not prevent trainees working towards their diploma, which qualifies them for work outside the public sector.
Benyettou has been described by his colleagues as a “studious and discreet trainee”. They appear to have been unaware of his extremist past. One doctor at the hospital told Le Parisien “it is impossible to imagine that this man – whom everyone says is one of the main mentors of the Kouachi brothers – might have tended to the victims of his former protégés.”