Mourad Benchellali may seem an unlikely youth counselor

Gitmo veteran now steering Europe’s youths away from jihad


He learned warfare in an al-Qaida training camp, did time at Guantanamo and more time in a French prison.

Mourad Benchellali may seem an unlikely youth counselor, but he is telling his story to young Europeans, warning them against the lure of jihad.

The 33-year-old Frenchman is one of a small number of Europeans presenting their jihadi past as an example for others not to follow. Many see men like him as a powerful tool to deter youth from heading to Syria – while Western governments are wary of them.

Former Guantanamo detainee and al-Qaida trainee Mourad Benchellali talks, during an interview with the Associated Press in Gennevilliers, suburban Paris, France.

With thousands of young Europeans joining the ranks of radical Islamists in Syria, some people have stepped forward to offer to deter them.

But most governments and groups trying to prevent the exodus of vulnerable youths are cautious about accepting such services _ since the volunteers were once radicals themselves.

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