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JIHADISTS

PM: ‘10,000 Europeans to wage jihad by year’s end’

As many as 10,000 Europeans could be waging jihad in Iraq and Syria by the end of this year, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned on Sunday, a three-fold increase on current numbers.

PM: '10,000 Europeans to wage jihad by year's end'
As many as 10,000 jihadists could end up waging war in Middle East by the end of the year, says the French PM. Photo: AFP

"There are 3,000 Europeans in Iraq and Syria today. When you do a projection for the months to come, there could be 5,000 before summer and 10,000 before the end of the year," Valls told French television channel iTele.

"Do you realise the threat that this represents?" he asked.

He said there were around 1,400 people who were either already in these conflict zones, who had come back from there or who were planning to go.

"There have already been nearly 90 French people who have died out there with a weapon in their hand, fighting against our own values," Valls said.

France, along with Belgium, has seen the largest numbers of volunteers leaving to join the Islamic State jihadist group, which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Last month, France seized passports from six of its citizens and banned 40 more from travelling abroad after they were allegedly planning to travel to Syria and Iraq.

It was the first time the measure had been used in France following its introduction as part of a raft of new counter-terrorism laws in November.

"We have to face a particularly high threat level in France, in Europe and in other countries," said Valls.

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JIHADISTS

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.

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