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Growing fears for French teens en route to fight jihad in Syria

Europe 1

Interior minister Manuel Valls (pictured) said Sunday that around a dozen French minors were either in transit or had arrived in Syria to fight alongside Islamist militants in the war-torn country.

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The departure of young French men intent on waging Jihad in Syria has become a worrying trend. Last week media reported that two 15-year-olds from the southwestern city of Toulouse had left to enlist in a militia.

“The two teens may not have reached Syria yet. They may be in Turkey. We are working closely with their families to bring them back,” Valls told Europe 1 radio.

“This trend has grown during the last few weeks, since the end of 2013,” the minister added.

Around 250 French citizens or residents who have travelled to Syria to join rebels engaged in a bitter armed conflict with forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad have been identified by French intelligence services, according to authorities.

Dangerous phenomenon

Twenty-one French citizens have died fighting in Syria since civil strife broke out there almost three years ago.

Valls gave several reasons to explain the dangerous phenomenon.

“One can travel to Syria relatively easily, the war appears to be a just one because all of the world powers have condemned Assad’s regime. There is probably also a malaise among youths,” Valls said.

In recent weeks, fighters with links to al Qaeda have turned their guns on former rebel allies, claiming key towns in north-eastern Syria. International diplomats have since pressured the Syrian rebellion to reach an agreement with Assad’s government.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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