This sharp increase is linked to the release in late March of Baghouz, the last jihadist stronghold in northeastern Syria.
Their number still fluctuated around 100-150 at the end of January. Four months later, the number of French nationals linked to ISIS held by the Kurds or held in refugee camps in northeastern Syria tripled, announces the Quai d’Orsay.
“In the northeastern area of Syria, it is estimated that there are about 400 to 450 French, some in camps, other prisoners, including children,” said Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday. a hearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly.
This sharp increase is undoubtedly linked to the release in late March of the city of Baghouz, the last stronghold of the Islamic State in the eastern region. At least 5000 men, women and children have fled this jihadist retreat in late February. “While thousands of foreigners are fleeing the caliphate in ruins, the burden that is already too heavy for us becomes even heavier,” said Moustafa Bali, spokesman for Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, including fighters. Kurds backed by the United States.
Jean-Yves Le Drian keeps track of repatriations
The clarifications made Tuesday by Jean-Yves le Drian will not reassure Kurdish officials and NGOs. The minister recalled that only children were likely to be repatriated to France, if they are orphans or if their mother gives their agreement, Paris opposing the return of men and wives considered as combatants.
“Our logic is always the same and we will not move: the fighters must be judged where they committed their crimes,” he said. “Children, if they are orphans or if, by chance, their mother’s permission, but this is case by case, could be repatriated to France,” he added. “That’s what we started to do, and that’s what we will continue,” he said.
Five orphans returned on 15 March and a three-year-old girl, whose mother was sentenced to life in Iraq, was released on 27 March.
Idleb, the “time bomb”
Jean-Yves Le Drian also said that more than a hundred French jihadists were present in the Idleb pocket. The last jihadist stronghold in Syria, located this time in the west of the country, has been shelled for a month by the regime of Bashar al-Assa
“There are more than a hundred (identified) French fighters in the Idleb area,” he said, calling the pocket “a real time bomb” with the presence of “30,000 combatants” ( rebels and jihadists) and the risk of an influx of refugees from this area to Europe. The province of Idleb as well as areas of the neighboring provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia are held by the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, ex-branch of Al Qaeda).