‘Almost 50’ French jihadists killed in Syria

Around 50 French nationals have been killed in Syria fighting alongside jihadists, the Prime Minister said on Wednesday. France also announced it will deploy six Mirage fighter jets against Isis fighters in Iraq.

'Almost 50' French jihadists killed in Syria
Extremists from the Isis group, whose numbers have been bolstered by French nationals. Photo: AFP

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday that "close to 50" French citizens have been killed fighting alongside jihadists in Syria.  A government source told AFP the precise number, as of Monday, was estimated at 49.

"We know the number of French nationals, more than a thousand, who are involved in this phenomenon," Valls said after a security meeting in Beauvais, north of Paris.

"We know the number of French who have died in Syria, close to 50, so we know the dangers and, sadly, we are not surprised to learn that French citizens or residents of France are found at the heart of these cells and taking part in this barbarity," he added.

"This strengthens our determination to fight against terrorism," said Valls.

Two French citizens – Maxime Hauchard and Mickael Dos Santos, both 22 – have been identified as appearing in this weekend's execution video from the Islamic State group (Isis).

Also on Wednesday France's Defence Minister announced that Paris will step up the fight against Isis extremists in Iraq, by deploying six Mirage jets.

France will deploy the fighter jets to Jordan as it steps up attacks against the Islamic State group in Iraq, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday.

"French air forces will be reinforced with six Mirages to be stationed in Jordan," Le Drian told parliament.

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French families sue government over children of jihadists stuck in Syria

The families of several children and wives of French jihadist fighters in Syria have filed lawsuits against France's top diplomat over his refusal to let them come to France.

French families sue government over children of jihadists stuck in Syria
Two detained French women who fled the Islamic State group's last pocket in Syria sit with their children . AFP

The suits, filed in July and September, accuse Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of “failing to provide aid” to people in “danger” at camps operated by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northeastern Syria.

The complaints were filed with the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), which hears cases over alleged misconduct by former or serving ministers.

It is the latest legal challenge to France's longstanding opposition to allowing the children and wives of suspected jihadists in Syria or Iraq to return home.

The government, which says it considers requests on a case-by-case basis only, has brought back just 17 children since March, many of them orphans.

Critics say the policy exposes innocent victims of the war, many of whom have suffered serious trauma during the fighting and coalition bombardments, to long-term psychological risks.

“The policy of 'case by case' keeps more than 200 children and their mothers exposed to inhumane and degrading treatment, and at risk of death,” the lawyers said

They note that Kurdish officials are also pressing European governments to repatriate citizens who went to fight for the Islamic State group in Syria, as well as their family members.

“It's a political choice not to save these children and mothers being held arbitrarily,” one of the lawyers, Marie Dose, told AFP.

Asked about the lawsuit, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said in a statement that France remained “fully mobilised so that each situation is handled with the children's interests in mind.”

“Our priority is to ensure the return of the most vulnerable orphan or isolated children,” she added.

A similar lawsuit was filed against France last May at the European Court of Human Rights, by the grandparents of two children stranded with their French jihadist mother in Syria.

The boy and girl, who were born in Syria, are among an estimated 500 children of French citizens who joined the Islamic State's so-called “caliphate” before the jihadists' last Syrian redoubt was overrun in March.