France is worried that French prisoners held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) could be released or escape after US President Donald
Trump announced plans last month to pull American forces out of Syria.
“Given the development of the military situation in north-east Syria, the American decisions, and to ensure the security of the French, we are examining all options to avoid the escape and scattering of these potentially dangerous individuals,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
“If the forces who are guarding the French fighters took the decision to expel them to France they would be immediately placed in the hands of the law,” it added.
Making clear that the jihadists — many of whom enlisted with Islamic State — would face the full weight of the law, the ministry added: “These people
voluntarily joined a terrorist organisation which is fighting in the Levant, carried out attacks in France and continues to threaten us.”
Speaking to BFM news channel earlier Tuesday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner linked the decision to the US withdrawal.
“The Americans are pulling out of Syria. There are currently people in prison (in a Kurdish-controlled part of Syria) and who are being held because the Americans are there and who will be freed,” he said.
A French security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that 130 people could be repatriated, confirming a figure reported by the BFM news
channel which said the group included men and women.
However the French foreign ministry said in its statement that it could “in no way confirm” the figure of 130.
Five hundred suspected jihadists are currently locked up in French prisons and are either waiting to be put on trial or have already been convicted.