Ivory Coast Extradites Suspect in Ilan Halimi Murder to France

Youssef Fofana, alleged leader of gang wanted for killing Ilan Halimi near Paris, handed over to France.

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ABIDJAN - An accused gang leader wanted for his alleged role in the recent killing of a Jewish man near Paris was en route to France on Saturday after Ivory Coast handed him over to French authorities for extradition.

Youssef Fofana, a Frenchman of Ivorian decent, was escorted by a dozen Ivorian paramilitary police to Abidjan's international airport, where he was handed over to French soldiers, according to an Associated Press reporter on the scene. Fofana departed aboard a French military plane sent from France that had been waiting on the tarmac.

On Friday, President Laurent Gbagbo signed an extradition order for Fofana, who was arrested by Ivorian security forces on Feb. 22 in an Abidjan suburb.

The Jewish man, 23-year-old Ilan Halimi, was held by a gang for three weeks and tortured after his Jan. 21 kidnapping. He was found Feb. 13 - naked, handcuffed and covered with burn marks - near railroad tracks south of Paris, and died on his way to a hospital.

Halimi's murder has revived concerns about anti-Semitism in France.

Late Thursday in France, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy welcomed the decision. "I thank them for their constant mobilization throughout this affair," Douste-Blazy said. "The return - now soon - of Mr. Fofana will permit the French courts to establish the responsibilities of those involved in the hateful murder of Ilan Halimi."

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