Some French jihadists are former soldiers, minister admits

Archive photo of IS group fighters
Archive photo of IS group fighters AFP

Of the estimated 1,000 French citizens who have travelled to Syria and Iraq to wage jihad, a small minority are former servicemen in the French armed forces, the country’s defence minister told Radio France Internationale (RFI) radio Wednesday.


Defence Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said that a ‘tiny minority’ of around a dozen of these fighters were among the French jihadists, the vast majority of whom are fighting under the banner of the Islamic State group which is carving out a caliphate in the Middle East amid the chaos of a bloody civil war in Syria and an ongoing Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

One of these former soldiers, the minister said, was effectively the emir, or military commander, of a unit of around a dozen French youngsters in the Deir Ezzor region of northern Syria.

Others, mostly young men in their mid-20s, include explosive experts and former members of the French Foreign Legion and the elite Parachute Brigade. Some of them have boasted of their former membership of the French army on social networks.

According to RFI, these men pose a particular danger to French security interests: they understand the workings of the French military, and raise the spectre of a Fort Hood-style attack, in which a US soldier killed 13 of his comrades as they prepared to deploy to Afghanistan.

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