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Video: Top Kurdish spy chief says French jihadists fighting in Iraq

© FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-02

In an interview with FRANCE 24, Masrour Barzani, director of intelligence and security in Iraqi Kurdistan, said European citizens – including French nationals – were fighting with ISIS in Iraq.

Barzani, the son of Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, spoke to FRANCE 24 shortly before ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released a 19-minute audiotape on Tuesday calling on Muslims to move to the “Islamic State” to help build “the caliphate”.

ISIS claims to have established a caliphate in the region stretching from the northern Syrian city of Aleppo to the Iraqi town of Diyala, near the Iranian border.

Speaking to FRANCE 24 in Arbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, Barzani said Kurdish authorities “have information about many Europeans – either people who have dual citizenship or people who are originally from Europe – who have joined Daesh [ISIS]. They came into Syria first, to fight in Syria, and some of them have come to Iraq to join the battle here,” he said. “So yes, there are people who have come from most European countries – including France.”

Daesh is the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

When asked if he had any idea about the number of European nationals or residents fighting in the region, Barzani replied, “hundreds, if not thousands”.

The French interior ministry estimated in May that nearly 700 French citizens or residents have made their way into Syria since the conflict began. A 29-year-old Frenchman who spent more than a year training in Syria has been arrested in connection with a deadly attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels last month.

Following the latest ISIS onslaught in Iraq, Barzani noted that the northern Kurdish territory had turned into a “de facto sovereign state” although it was not internationally or legally recognised as an independent state.

On June 12, Kurdish peshmerga troops effectively took control of the disputed, oil-rich northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk as the regular Iraqi army fled an ISIS assault.

The Kurds have long claimed Kirkuk as their historic capital.

Speaking to FRANCE 24, Barzani noted that “the situation created today is basically the result of a failed political structure in Iraq and in the region. If we look at Iraq itself, we see that a large number of Sunnis who have been against the policies of Baghdad - not necessarily all of them affiliated with Daesh - but they seized the opportunity to express themselves and Daesh has manipulated the situation.”

Date created : 2014-07-01

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