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French police arrest six in sweep of suspected Syria jihadists


French police have arrested six people in an operation targeting France-based jihadists suspected of travelling to fight in Syria's civil war, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Tuesday.


The operation in Strasbourg came near dawn and followed weeks after authorities announced a new push to prevent French militants from travelling to Syria.

Cazeneuve said the six were suspected of participating in a jihadist network and had recently travelled to the strife-torn nation.

In a brief statement at his ministry, Cazeneuve said the sweep “went down perfectly” and showed “the total determination of the government to fight with all its power against terrorism and the enlisting of youths in violent radicalisation”. 

He said an investigating judge is handling the case.

Cazeneuve did not discuss an earlier news report on French radio that the sweep involved an ongoing police investigation into 14 young men who told their parents in December that they were going on vacation but instead went to southern Turkey and eventually to Syria.

Hundreds of young French militants have reportedly travelled to Syria to join in the fighting.

Authorities fear they could return home with newly acquired military skills and ambitions to carry out attacks within France.

Last month French authorities announced a series of measures aimed at deterring youths from joining the ranks of Islamist militants in Syria, including a "hotline" for suspicious parents and family members to alert authorities and measures for seizing passports from those suspected of planning to become fighters abroad.

The French Interior Ministry estimated then that nearly 700 French citizens or residents have made their way into Syria since the conflict began.

In February FRANCE 24 featured the exclusive testimony of a 27-year-old Frenchman who left his Paris home along with his wife and her two young daughters to join a jihadist group in Syria.

"I'm often asked what happens to people who leave to wage jihad in Syria when they return to France,'' Cazeneuve said in his comments Tuesday. "It's simple: They're connected with a terrorist enterprise, [so they are] arrested and handed over to justice.''

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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