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Veteran French jihadist 'detained in Syria'

Delil Souleiman, AFP | A flag of the Islamic State (IS) group pictured near Syria's northern Manbij on June 23, 2016.

Several suspected French Islamist militants have been arrested in northern Syria, including a man convicted of running a jihadist recruitment network in southwest France, French media and a source close to the matter said on Wednesday.


According to news channel LCI, at least three French nationals were captured by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia on Dec. 17.

"Several French were arrested in northern Syria in the Hassakeh area, near the Iraqi border," the source said, confirming the arrests.

The source added there were more than three French nationals stopped, including Thomas Barnouin, an Islamist known to French security services who is believed to have gone to Syria in 2014 to join the Islamic State (IS) group.

Barnouin was sentenced to five years in prison in 2006 for running a jihadi recruitment network in the southwestern Toulouse region, and was close to Mohamed Merah, a gunman who killed seven people in the area in 2012, including three Jewish children.

He is also close to brothers Fabien and Jean-Michel Clain, who were identified by officials as the voices in a jihadist audio message claiming the IS group’s responsibility for attacks in Paris that killed 130 people in 2015.

Thomas Barnouin 'a reference for French jihadists'

The public prosecutor declined to comment. The French interior ministry said it could neither deny nor confirm the arrests.

The head of France's DGSI internal intelligence agency, Laurent Nunez, warned in November that security services were still worried militants could continue to plan attacks in France from Syria and Iraq despite the IS group's loss of territory.

France's foreign minister said on December 9 that Paris estimated the number of French jihadists still in the region at about 500.

It is unclear whether those caught in Iraq and Syria will be returned to their home country, although French officials have said they expect all adults to face local justice.


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