The huge number of French nationals leaving to fight Jihad in Syria and Iraq has long been detailed, but on Tuesday the country’s Interior Minister shed a little more light on the origin, ages, and sex of those waging war.
Bernard Cazeneuve said that there were currently 457 French citizens present in Syria and Iraq.
Among those French nationals in the Middle East, 137 are women and 80 are minors, including 45 teenage girls. It follows a senate report in April that revealed half of Europe's jihadists fighting in the Middle East were French nationals.
On Tuesday Cazeneuve revealed the latest numbers as part of a hearing at the country’s parliament lead by the commission looking into surveillance of individuals.
According to information obtained by the government French jihadists mainly come from six regions: Ile de France, which includes Paris, Rhône-Alps, which includes the cities of Lyon and Grenoble, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Languedoc-Rousillon and Midi-Pyrénées in the south west of the country.
The commission also enquired about those jihadists who have since decided to leave Syria and return to France. It is this group whom the French government believes poses the greatest threat of carrying out terrorist attacks along the lines of the Paris shootings in January.
Cazeneuve revealed that 278 French nationals had left Syria, of which 213 have already returned to France and others were returning each week and even on a daily basis.
The minister also said that 320 citizens were currently on their way to the region and that 105 had died in the fighting – eight of whom in various suicide attacks.
Last month the French PM warned that France could be at risk of these kind of suicide attacks being replicated on French soil and pointed that at least six of French nationals who had undertaken the kamikaze raids were recent converts to Islam.
France has seen a 203 percent increase in the number of its nationals implicated in someway in the conflict in the Middle East compared to January 1st 2014, Cazeneuve said.
In all 1,683 French nationals are in some way implicated in the fighting.
The interior minister also said that authorities had blocked 36 illegal websites in recent months, which have in some way promoted jihadism.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris France launched its own shock video campaign aimed at discouraging citizens from taking up the fight.