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TERRORISM

Wanted dead, not alive: France’s approach to French jihadists

French citizens are among the biggest contingent of overseas fighters who have joined IS, with around 1,000 nationals estimated by counter-terror officials to have travelled to Iraq and Syria. France doesn't want them back.

Wanted dead, not alive: France's approach to French jihadists
Photos: AFP

France's attitude to the killing of its citizens in Syria fighting for the Islamic State group has rarely been as frankly stated as it was in the lead up to the fall of Raqa.

“We are committed along with our allies to the destruction of Daesh (Islamic State) and we're doing everything to that end,” Defence Minister Florence Parly told reporters at the weekend.

“What we want is to go to the end of this combat and of course if jihadists die in the fighting, then I'd say it's for the best,” she added.

French citizens are among the biggest contingent of overseas fighters who have joined IS, with around 1,000 nationals estimated by counter-terror officials to have travelled to Iraq and Syria.

Their return home to a country that has faced the worst of the IS-inspired violence in Europe since 2015 — which has claimed 241 lives — has long worried government and intelligence officials in Paris.

France in struggle to confirm jihadists' deaths(AFP)

Aside from the obvious moral issues, a dead jihadist poses far fewer problems for French and European authorities than a captured one.

First, there are the legal problems associated with a prisoner taken on the battlefield in Iraq or Syria.

Under what jurisdiction should he or she be tried? And for what crimes? In Iraq, for example, they could face the death penalty, which the European Union and member states officially oppose.

Should they be extradited for trial in their home countries then — which requires an extradition treaty? What evidence, collected by whom, would be used in a domestic court?

Furthermore, judges and anti-terror prosecutors are already struggling to cope with the ever-increasing caseload related to extremism across Europe and
would be swamped by potentially hundreds of new trials.

Once convicted, the jihadists become a security risk in jail because of the danger that they will radicalise other inmates — already a problem in prisons
across Europe.

“There will be negotiations with the countries concerned,” French European lawmaker Arnaud Danjean, the lead author of a recent French strategic military review, told France Inter radio on Wednesday.

“There's not only France that is concerned, there's Belgium, the United States,” he added.

(Image taken from Isis propaganda video)

'War brings risks'

A US military official said Tuesday that about 400 Islamic State members including foreign fighters had surrendered in Raqa as US-backed forces closed in on the city notorious for its atrocities under the rule of the Sunni extremists.

Resistance around a city hospital and stadium was ultimately less than expected as IS forces either gave up or withdrew to the small strip of territory still under the group's control in neighbouring Deir Ezzor province.

In May, the Wall Street Journal published an investigation that claimed that French special forces had provided a hitlist to Iraqi forces of around 30
men who were “identified as high value targets”.

Asked afterwards to comment, a spokesman for the new government of centrist President Emmanuel Macron did not deny France carried out killings — a policy
that was confirmed by previous president Francois Hollande.

“I say to all fighters who join the Islamic State group and then go abroad to wage war: waging war brings risks, and they must accept those risks,”
Christophe Castaner told reporters.

Speaking to journalists for a book published last year, Hollande confirmed that he had personally authorised at least four killings of “high value
targets” by special forces in what are known as “homocide” operations in France.

Another estimate by the journalist Vincent Nouzille, who wrote a book on the subject, said French forces had killed around 40 nationals during his five-year term.

'Our aim is to kill them'

As IS jihadists flee Raqa and face imminent defeat elsewhere in their shrinking “caliphate”, the question for French and other Western governments will be how to deal with the holdouts.

In June, French magazine Paris Match also published a report quoting Iraqi officials around the city of Mosul before it was recaptured by US and
French-backed forces.

Abdelghani al-Assadi, a top commander in the Counter-Terrorism Service, said the Iraqis had an understanding with France that they would mop up the jihadists to prevent them from returning home.

“We will prevent as much as possible any French person leaving Mosul alive,” he was quoted as saying. “Our aim is to kill them so that no one from Daesh can flee.”

by AFP's Adam Plowright

CRIME

Surgeon fined for trying to sell Paris terror attack victim’s x-ray

A Paris court on Wednesday convicted a surgeon for trying to sell an X-Ray image of a wounded arm of a woman who survived the 2015 terror attacks in the French capital.

Surgeon fined for trying to sell Paris terror attack victim's x-ray

Found guilty of violating medical secrecy, renowned orthopaedic surgeon Emmanuel Masmejean must pay the victim €5,000 or face two months in jail, judges ordered.

Masmejean, who works at the Georges-Pompidou hospital in western Paris, posted the image of a young woman’s forearm penetrated by a Kalashnikov bullet on marketplace Opensea in late 2021.

The site allows its roughly 20 million users to trade non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – certificates of ownership of an artwork that are stored on a “blockchain” similar to the technology used to secure cryptocurrencies.

In the file’s description, the surgeon wrote that the young woman he had operated on had “lost her boyfriend in the attack” on the Bataclan concert hall, the focus of the November 2015 gun and bomb assault in which jihadists killed 130 people.

The X-Ray image never sold for the asking price of $2,776, and was removed from Opensea after being revealed by investigative website Mediapart in January.

Masmejean claimed at a September court hearing that he had been carrying out an “experiment” by putting a “striking and historic medical image” online – while acknowledging that it had been “idiocy, a mistake, a blunder”.

The court did not find him guilty of two further charges of abuse of personal data and illegally revealing harmful personal information.

Nor was he barred from practicing as prosecutors had urged, with the lead judge saying it would be “disproportionate and inappropriate” to inflict such a “social death” on the doctor.

The victim’s lawyer Elodie Abraham complained of a “politically correct” judgement.

“It doesn’t bother anyone that there’s been such a flagrant breach of medical secrecy. It’s not a good message for doctors,” Abraham said.

Neither Masmejean, who has been suspended from his hospital job, nor the victim were present for Wednesday’s ruling.

The surgeon may yet face professional consequences after appearing before the French medical association in September, his lawyer Ivan Terel said.

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