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France says 930 citizens or residents involved in jihad

Patrick Kovarik, AFP I French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on September 10, 2014 in Paris
3 min

Around 930 French citizens or residents, including at least 60 women, are either actively engaged in jihad in Iraq and Syria or are planning to go there, the interior minister said Sunday.

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An estimated “930 French citizens or foreigners usually resident in France are today involved in jihad in Iraq and Syria”, said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in an interview with French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche.

The figure includes “350 [who] are on the ground, including 60 women. Around 180 have left from Syria and 170 are en route for the zone”, he added.

In addition, some 230 people are currently looking to head to areas held by jihadists. An estimated additional 36 have already died in jihadist-held areas and are not included in the 930, said Cazeneuve.

One chilling example of a European involved in the conflict is the man who carried out the apparent beheading of British aid worker David Haines in a video released by the Islamic State group. The man speaks with a British accent.

France’s announcement comes on the eve of a conference on Iraqi security set for September 15 in Paris. French President François Hollande recently promised to increase French military aid to Iraq to help the country in its battle against a jihadist insurgency by the Islamic State (IS) organisation.

France has already said it would take part in military action against Islamic State fighters in Iraq as part of a coalition being formed by Washington.

Returning jihadists

Western governments have voiced concern about the possibility of their citizens joining Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria and then returning home to commit atrocities. Cazeneuve said that some returning jihadists boast about what they have done and “say they are ready to leave again.”

“Others, destroyed by the violence and atrocities they saw or participated in, say they no longer want to be involved.”

“Some claim to have left on a humanitarian mission, but we have reliable information that they fought in jihadist ranks,” explained the minister.

Halting travel for jihad

France has created a law aimed at stopping aspiring jihadists from travelling, which includes a ban on foreign travel of up to six months for individuals suspected of radicalisation and gives authorities powers to temporarily confiscate and invalidate their passports.

Cazeneuve announced that “at least 70” people had been prevented from leaving after authorities received around 350 alerts about possible jihadists.

This included around 80 minors and 150 women.

Asked about Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche, suspected of killing four people at Brussels’ Jewish Museum in May, Cazeneuve said: “The perversity of the terrorist jihadist system means that you do not necessarily have to receive a mission to carry out a terrorist act.”

“When people are psychologically destroyed by daily acts of extreme violence, decapitations or other acts of barbarism, all their moral values fall, all their points of reference are wiped out.”

In a recent parliamentary report, France had previously estimated that 950 people were suspected of engaging in jihad.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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