Peter Cherif

Peter Cherif, also known as Abu Hamza, is a French Islamic militant who has been a member of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He is also believed to have assisted the planning of the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

He was arrested in Djibouti on December 16, 2018, and extradited to France on charges of terrorism.

Early lifeEdit

He was born sometime in 1982 near the Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, France. Cherif's father, who died when his son was 14, was a Catholic Afro-Caribbean immigrant. His mother, Myriam, was born in Tunisia.[1]


He converted to Islam in 2003 and was radicalised by the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Farid Benyettou was his mentor.[2]

In early 2004, Cherif took part in protests against a French law banning Islamic head scarves in public schools. He was filmed by news crews and police intelligence officers next to Farid Benyettou.

He left for Damascus in May 2004, saying he was going to join friends studying at a Koranic school. The school was known as a way station for European fighters on their way to Iraq.

U.S. troops in Iraq captured Cherif and another Frenchman near Fallujah on 2 December 2004. He was wounded twice fighting in the First Battle of Fallujah and the Second Battle of Fallujah. Cherif was detained, unarmed, at a checkpoint and imprisoned at Camp Bucca. In August 2005, he was transferred to Abu Ghraib prison.[3]

He was convicted in Baghdad in July 2006 for illegally crossing the border, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He escaped in March 2007 in a prison break by the Islamic State of Iraq. He traveled to Syria, where he was arrested, extradited, and served 18 months in jail in France. He was released pending trial and fled the country to Yemen. He was sentenced to five years in prison, in absentia, for being a member of a terrorist organization on 16 August 2012.[4]

In the summer of 2011, he was present at a meeting with Chérif Kouachi in Yemen to plan the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Peter Cherif helped provide Kouachi with cash and a few days of al Qaeda training, according to French and U.S. intelligence officials.[5]

In May 2011, he was involved in interpreting for AQAP in the case of three French aid workers kidnapped in Yemen by the group.[6]

According to his United Nations listing, he has been involved in the recruitment of foreign fighters and facilitated their travel to Yemen from Tunisia, via Oman. He is also suspected to have been identified in 2013 on a speedboat, during a reconnaissance operation along the Hadramawt coast of Yemen in order to plan a maritime terrorist attack.

He lived with his wife and children in the town of Mukalla, Hadramawt province, Yemen, and believed to be working for the "legal service" of AQAP.

He was arrested in Djibouti on December 16, 2018 [7][8] and within a short term in which his legal status had to be cleared by the authorities [9] extradited to France.[10][11][12]

In January 2019, Cherif's wife, Soulef A, was provisionally detained on charges of criminal association with terrorists and financing a terrorist enterprise.[13]

US and UN sanctionsEdit

He was sanctioned by the United States Department of the State on September 29, 2015.[14]

Peter Cherif was listed on 29 September 2015 by the United Nations Security Council as "being associated with Al-Qaida for "participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf of, or in support of", "recruiting for" and "otherwise supporting act or activities" of Al-Qaida in Iraq and Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)".[15]


  1. ^ Rotella, Sebastian (8 August 2006). "A Couple Divided by Faith". Archived from the original on 19 October 2013 – via LA Times.
  2. ^ Hernandez, Nathalie (4 January 2016). "Peter Cherif, le vétéran du djihad".
  3. ^ "Trail of Terror: Paris to Iraq - msnbc-".
  4. ^ "Designations of Foreign Terrorist Fighters".
  5. ^ ProPublica (4 June 2015). "How France Let the Charlie Hebdo Killers Go Free". The Daily Beast.
  6. ^ "Three French aid workers kidnapped in Yemen 'are freed'". BBC News. 14 November 2011.
  7. ^ Attentat de Charlie Hebdo. Le djihadiste français Peter Cherif, proche des frères Kouachi, arrêté à Djibouti
  8. ^ Djibouti: le jihadiste Peter Chérif arrêté, le résultat d'une traque de sept ans
  9. ^ Capture de Peter Cherif, un des terroristes français les plus recherchés - Ce proche des frères Kouachi a été arrêté à Djibouti, le 16 décembre. Son statut juridique et son extradition sont toutefois encore incertains
  10. ^ Peter Cherif, extradé, a embarqué pour la France
  11. ^ Le djihadiste Peter Cherif a atterri en France et a été placé en garde à vue
  12. ^ Peter Cherif en garde à vue en France: des Buttes-Chaumont à Djibouti, itinéraire d’un des terroristes le plus recherchés au monde
  13. ^ "Wife of jihadist charged with terrorist crimes in France". The Guardian. 3 January 2019. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  14. ^ "In the Matter of the Designation of Peter Cherif, Also Known as Peter Cheraf, Also Known as Abu Hamza Cheraf, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Pursuant to Section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224, as Amended". 30 September 2015.
  15. ^ "Peter Cherif - United Nations Security Council Subsidiary Organs".