France is grappling with its home-grown ‘jihadi’ threat as a number of radicalised youth are leaving to fight in Syria and Iraq, alongside extremists.
On Wednesday, an alleged ‘jihadi’ was caught in Turkey with his two-year-old daughter. A 16-year-old girl, suspected of trying to join Islamist rebels in Syria was arrested at the Nice airport along with her alleged recruiter, a 22-year old Chechen man.
Last week, Russian television showed an interview of former soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and elsewhere, fighting in East Ukraine with pro-Russian rebels. 900 French citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq since 2012, according to official estimates. The French interior ministry runs a hotline for families of radicalised youth and put special anti-terror measures in place in April allowing authorities to restrict travel and seize passports of suspects.
A bill to further toughen anti-terror laws will be discussed in the French parliament in September. French authorities also plan to crack down heavily on the Internet and social media where most of the 'jihadi' propaganda circulates.
International consultant and terror expert, Jean-Charles Brisard, told HT that even though there have been departures to conflict zones such as Afghanistan and Bosnia in the past, the number of radicalised French leaving to fight with extremists is the highest ever now. “What’s also new is that a lot of women are leaving alone and the highest number (about 150) is from France. Earlier, women only accompanied men who left Europe with their families to wage jihad”.
Russian news agency Rossia Segodnia recently did a survey claiming 16% of French supported the Islamic state, higher than British citizens (7%) and Germans (2%). France has the largest population of Muslims in Europe and many consider laws such as the headscarf and burqa bans repressive.