French ‘jihadist recruiter’ arrested in Berlin

Germany's federal police on Sunday announced the arrest of a French national suspected of fighting for radical jihadists in Syria.

French 'jihadist recruiter' arrested in Berlin
Hundreds of foreign nationals from various countries across Europe are believed to be fighting in Syria. Photo: AFP

A spokesman told AFP that the man was picked up in Berlin late Saturday after flying in from Istanbul and was believed to have spent time in Syria where he allegedly joined the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

A source close to the investigation in France named him as Tewffik Bouallag, born 30 years ago in Dreux in northern France.

An international warrant for his arrest on charges of "conspiracy to commit terrorist acts" was issued in Paris two days ago, the source added.

German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Monday reported the man was hurt while fighting in Syria and had posted several pictures of himself with gunshot wounds on Islamic extremist websites.

The report added that German authorities believe the man was returning to Europe to recruit other fighters for Syria or plan an attack.

The spokesman declined to comment, saying that the federal police would release further details on Monday.

"We need to exchange some information with international partners first," he said.

The arrest comes as concerns are mounting in Europe about the growing national security threat posed by jihadists returning from war-torn Syria.

On Saturday France announced that it deported a Tunisian accused of recruiting young jihadists to join the conflict.

Police also suspect a deadly attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels three weeks ago was carried out by a Franco-Algerian who spent more than a year fighting for jihadists in Syria.

The French government unveiled an anti-terrorism plan in April to prevent the radicalisation of nationals, thwart online recruitment and make it more difficult for aspiring jihadists to leave the country for Syria.

The German domestic security watchdog warned recently of the threat posed by Islamic extremists returning from fighting in the Syrian civil war.

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French group to open two hotels in Damascus

France's Louvre Hotels Group has signed an agreement to open two hotels under its own name in Damascus, the first with a western hotel operator since Syria's brutal civil war began in 2011.

French group to open two hotels in Damascus
Louvre owns the Golden Tulip five-star brand. Photo: Louvre Hotels Group
The confirmation of the two hotels opening, after recent media reports, came a day after the UN announced an internal investigation into the bombing of hospitals in Syria, and as at least six civilians were killed by the Syrian regime and Russian fire in northwestern Idlib province in the past days, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The region of around three million people, many of them displaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition fighting against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate controls most of Idlib as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.
The hotels “will open soon under the brand name of Louvres Hotels Group,” the company, which is owned by China's Jin
Jiang, said in a statement.
Louvre Hotels Group said the deal was signed between Syria's Nazha Investment Group and “a partner with whom Louvre Hotels cooperates in the Middle East”.
The exact number of people killed in Syria's war is unknown but hundreds of thousands have died.
Several dozen medical facilities with links to the UN have been damaged or destroyed by bombs this year. Russian has denied deliberately targeting civilian installations.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday said an internal inquiry would look into the bombing of hospitals in Syria which had previously flagged their coordinates to avoid air strikes.
“The deal is strictly in line with international law and all international directives regarding Syria,” the French company statement said.
According to the website, The Syria Report, it is the first agreement with a western hotel operator since 2011, when the devastating conflict began. Louvre Hotels Group was taken over by China's Jin Jiang in 2015 and it operates more than 1,500 hotels in 54 countries.