FRANCE

Police raids dismantle French jihadist network

Martin Bureau, AFP | French police

French police launched nationwide raids early on Monday to dismantle a network that was sending jihadists to Syria, a police source said. The raids were focused mainly near Toulouse but also around Paris and Normandy.

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Elite and anti-terror police units descended on around a dozen targets, mostly in the southern region of Toulouse, but also around Paris and in the northern region of Normandy, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

It was not immediately clear how many people were arrested.

In recent months in France – which has Europe's largest Muslim population – there has been growing concern over the hundreds of nationals joining jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria, who have even called for attacks on their homeland.

The new reality was driven home in a video from the Islamic State (IS) group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, released in mid-November, showing three Kalashnikov-wielding Frenchmen burning their passports and calling on Muslims to join them or stage attacks in France.

A grisly execution video released around the same time featured at least one French citizen who hailed from a small village in Normandy and converted to Islam in his teens.

Almost 1,000 French nationals from diverse backgrounds are estimated to have left to join jihadists in Iraq and Syria, including some 400 thought to be currently fighting on the ground and almost 50 who were killed.

According to figures published in the Le Monde newspaper in November, about a quarter of those who left to join the jihadists were converts to Islam.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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