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French jihadists moan about life on the front

Ben McPartland · 4 Dec 2014, 12:47

Published: 04 Dec 2014 12:47 GMT+01:00

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The contents of the letters, who were sent to lawyers or families back in France, were revealed by Le Figaro newspaper.

They were written by French nationals who had travelled to the Middle East to wage jihad but now apparently wanted to return home and wanted the lawyers to begin the process of the repatriation.

But the fighters revealed their anxiety about how they would be received back in France.

“If I return to France, what will happen to me?”, “Can I avoid prison?” and “What will I have to do in exchange?” were just some of the questions posed by the jihadists.

What perhaps was more eye-opening was their descriptions about life among the extremists and how some of them complained about the hardship, lack of frontline action or fear of having to actually fight.

“I have practically done nothing apart from distribute clothes and food. I have also helped to clean weapons and carry the bodies of those killed during fighting,” read one letter.

“Winter is coming here. It’s starting to get very hard,” the letter said.

While some suggested they wanted more frontline action others revealed their fears of having to pick up arms.

“They want to send me to the front, but I don’t know how to fight,” wrote one jihadist.

Some expressed concern about the nationalities of their babies born in Syria, while others said they feared for their lives after reports a French jihadist was beheaded for wanting to return.

Others complained about missing out on modern home comforts.

“I’m fed up. My iPod doesn’t work anymore here. I have to come back,” one jihadist complained.

Another said: “I’m fed up. They make me do the washing up.”

The big unanswered question in France is what is the best solution for how to deal with returning jihadist?

SEE ALSO: What to do with France's returning jihadists

While some advocate tough prison sentences, others are pushing for an approach used by Denmark when returning jihadists are “de-radicalized”.

Last month the first jihadi who had returned from Syria was sentenced to seven years in prison despite only having spent 12 days in Syria.

He revealed his decision to return home was because he was unable to cope with the strict ban on smoking imposed on recruits.

Story continues below…

Speaking to Le Figaro, one lawyer said: "Everyone knows that the longer these people stay there, the worse it will be because having watched or committed atrocities, they become ticking time bombs.”

“But when it comes to having a discussion about whether France is ready to accept repentants, no politician is willing to take the risk. Imagine if one of these ex-jihadis is involved subsequently in an attack?”

Returning Jihadists are simply told to present themselves to authorities when they return and police will take it from there.

Unofficial figures quoted in the French media report that out of 100 French jihadists who have returned, 76 are reportedly in prison.

Le Figaro's report said that jihadist recruits from Britain are considered to be more intelligent that their French counterparts.

"Within the secret services, it's said that British jihadis are more interesting because they have a higher intellectual level than their French colleagues, who are more often donkeys," one anti-terrorism expert told the paper.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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