France Moves to Stop Flow of Fighters Into Syria

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
April 23, 2014, 8:59 a.m.

France is mov­ing to stop its res­id­ents from trav­el­ing to Syr­ia to join mil­it­ant op­pon­ents of Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s re­gime, the Wall Street Journ­al re­ports.

The coun­try was poised on Wed­nes­day to en­act “all kinds of meas­ures to dis­suade, to stop, to pun­ish those who would be temp­ted to go fight­ing in places where they have no place,” French Pres­id­ent Fran­cois Hol­lande said. Gov­ern­ment per­son­nel said more than 500 people have traveled from France to Syr­ia, spur­ring fears that they could re­ceive pre­par­a­tions in the con­flict-torn state to con­duct strikes in Europe.

The an­ti­cip­ated steps would in­clude keep­ing tabs on In­ter­net ef­forts by Is­lam­ic ex­trem­ists to draft vo­lun­teers for the Syr­i­an civil war from in­side France. Mil­it­ants op­er­ate web­sites to find French sym­path­izers, and then make ar­range­ments for in­duct­ees to enter Syr­ia through neigh­bor­ing na­tions, such as Tur­key.

The French gov­ern­ment cam­paign would pur­sue co­oper­a­tion with re­l­at­ives of young­er people thought to be de­vel­op­ing rad­ic­al views, ac­cord­ing to the Journ­al. In ad­di­tion, French au­thor­it­ies are in­tensi­fy­ing ef­forts to crack down on in­di­vidu­als who have re­turned from com­bat in Syr­ia, the news­pa­per re­por­ted.

The FBI in Wash­ing­ton sim­il­arly has been track­ing U.S. res­id­ents who have re­turned from rebel activ­it­ies in Syr­ia and might be­come ter­ror­ist risks at home.

The num­ber of Europeans trav­el­ing to join the Syr­i­an war in­creased more than two-fold last year, and the con­flict is now equip­ping 2,000 to 3,000 West­ern­ers with ex­per­i­ence in fight­ing and bomb-mak­ing, ex­perts said in a Tues­day art­icle by the Chris­ti­an Sci­ence Mon­it­or.

A high-level French an­ti­ter­ror­ism in­sider said the po­ten­tial threat has “now gone in­to an­oth­er di­men­sion, dif­fer­ent from any­thing most coun­tries have seen be­fore.” The source said the pos­sible dangers from Syr­ia out­size equi­val­ent threats from Ir­aq, Ye­men and “in many ways … Afgh­anistan.”

“The risks are already big, and they’ll just keep grow­ing as the Syr­i­an war con­tin­ues,” the of­fi­cial said.

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