A Paris prosecutor said Wednesday that he had formally placed French nationals Maxime Hauchard and Mickael Dos Santos under investigation after they appeared in the video showing Islamist State militants killing Syrian soldiers and a US aid worker.
It was announced on Monday that one of the men shown herding prisoners - including US humanitarian worker Peter Kassig - to be beheaded was Hauchard, a French Muslim convert who left for Syria in 2013.
However, after days of speculation, Paris finally confirmed on Wednesday that a second French jihadist had been identified in the shocking film.
"In addition to Maxime Hauchard, specific and solid evidence has been collected identifying the presence of a second Frenchman: Mickael Dos Santos," prosecutor François Molins said in a statement.
He described Dos Santos as a 22-year-old from Champigny-sur-Marne, a town east of Paris, who left for Syria in August 2013. "This young convert was known to intelligence services and anti-terrorist judicial authorities and is wanted as part of an investigation opened on October 10, 2013," Molins added.
How were they indoctrinated?
The French prosecutor has now placed the two men under investigation for premeditated murder, participation in a terrorist organisation, and conspiracy to commit crimes.
Hollande also called for vigilance on “how these young people can be indoctrinated.”
FRANCE 24's Wassim Nasr on international IS fighters
FRANCE 24’s jihadist groups expert, Wassim Nasr, has however raised doubts about Dos Santos’s identification. Nassr points out that his eye colour and Arabic accent in the video did not match his known description, but he underlined that the latest footage confirmed the presence of many international fighters in the ranks of IS.
France is a significant source of the group's foreign recruits, with hundreds who have made the trip to Syria and about 1,100 under surveillance, officials said this week.
"Nearly all nationalities" in IS
But FRANCE 24’s Nasr said the latest footage from IS also featured fighters from across Asia and North America. “This video shows that the Islamic State group has nearly all the nationalities in its ranks, and therefore it concerns everyone,” he said.
Western officials fear that an Islamic militant with a European passport could return from the war zone with dangerous skills and the means to reach more two dozen countries undetected.
However, Nasr noted that many international fighters came to join IS with their families and showed no intention of going home – unlike the militants who trained in al Qaeda camps before returning to their home countries in the past.
More than 2,000 Europeans are believed to be among an estimated 15,000 foreigners who have joined fierce fighting across Iraq and Syria in recent months, according to various government estimates.
The IS group has declared a self-styled Islamic caliphate in areas under its control, which it governs according to its violent interpretation of Sharia law.
“Today, the Islamic State group is trying to build a state, which makes it a lot more attractive for jihadis already in the ranks of al Qaeda, but also for youngsters who are leaving their lives in the West knowing that this is a war zone and they could lose their life at any minute,” Nasr said. He added that in addition to the unsurprising number of convicted criminals, the group had recruited foreign students and skilled professionals.
France vs IS group
Disappointment with Western politics leads some of them to adhere to IS’s ideology despite the risk to their life, according to Nasr.
“They don’t believe in ethnicity, they don’t believe in nations, they really are an international army – as the communists in the beginning of the last century created international brigades,” Nasr argues.
For France, there is also the underlying concern about the sheer number of its citizens joining the ranks of IS group.
Flavien Moreau became the first French citizen last week to go on trial for joining up with jihadists in Syria. A Paris court sentenced him to seven years.
France is part of a US-led coalition to provide air support to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting the IS militant group.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-11-19