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French teenage girls held over Syria jihad plans

© Kenzo Tribouillard, AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-08-23

Two French girls, aged 15 and 17, have been detained as part of a police investigation into another 14-year-old girl suspected of travelling to Syria to join jihadist fighters there, judicial sources said Friday.

The two teenagers were arrested Tuesday and held for 48 hours before being placed under formal investigation Thursday night, facing charges of criminal conspiracy in relation to a terrorist organisation, a source close to the case told the AFP news agency.

The younger girl was arrested in the town of Tarbes in southern France, the other in the southeastern city of Lyon in the Rhône-Alpes region.

Their arrest comes as part of an investigation into the disappearance of a 14-year-old girl from Argenteuil, a suburb of Paris, who is believed to have gone to Syria where jihadists groups are fighting forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

One of the two detained teenagers had been in contact with the missing girl via social networks, the source said. One had also “envisaged” travelling to Syria herself, the source added.

The arrest and detention of the two teenage girls drew criticism from human rights groups, with France’s Human Rights League (LDH) condemning the authorities’ response as “disproportionate”.

These “two arrests of minors and their detention for 48 hours” has “completely violated and reduced to nothing” the International Convention of the Rights of the Child, said the group’s Rhone chapter.

France battles Syria exodus

France has ramped up efforts to curb the number of its citizens joining Islamic extremist groups fighting overseas in Syria and elsewhere amid fears they could return to carry out terrorist attacks on home soil.

Thousands of Europeans have travelled to Syria since the conflict erupted there in 2011. France, which has Western Europe’s largest Muslim population at an estimated five million, has seen around 900 of its citizens travel to, make plans to travel to or return from Syrian battlefields, including several teenagers.

They include Mehdi Nemmouche, the Frenchman charged with fatally shooting four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May, who spent more than a year fighting with Islamist extremists in Syria, French prosecutors have said.

An ‘anti-radicalisation’ bill designed to stop French citizens joining jihadist groups was unveiled by Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in April. It included the launch of a hotline for members of the public to call if they suspect a friend or family member is considering travelling to Syria or is in danger of becoming radicalised.

A bill containing even tougher measures, including powers to ban those suspected of seeking to take up arms overseas from leaving the country as well as the blocking of jihadist websites, is set to go before the French parliament later this year.

Date created : 2014-08-23

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