Fearing Converts to Terrorism, France Intercepts Citizens Bound for Syria

Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, June 3, 2014

The three young Frenchmen were arrested as they tried to make their way to Syria to wage jihad. They had not harmed anyone in France or made plans to do so, according to the evidence at their trial in January, but in France these days, seeking to fight in Syria is enough to bring a charge of plotting terrorism–and in this case sentences of three to five years in prison.

France, and much of Europe, have grown steadily more concerned over the past year about the possibility that the main terrorist threat could come from their own citizens, European passport holders who can move relatively easily between their homelands and the battlefields of Syria, where Islamist rebel groups are fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

In that climate, France is becoming especially aggressive by arresting would-be jihadis even before they leave the country or set foot on a battlefield.

France’s fears came to the fore on Sunday when officials announced the apprehension of a suspect in the killings of three people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels last month, a 29-year-old Frenchman said to have spent time in Syria last year.

On Monday, the French authorities said they had arrested four men they described as jihadi recruiters operating in the Paris region and in the south of France and one French citizen living near Brussels, the latest in a string of cases intended to disrupt the flow of French citizens, usually young men of North African and Arab descent, to Syria.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday that he and Justice Minister Christiane Taubira would seek to pass legislation to expand the legal grounds for arrest and prosecution in cases involving plans for terrorist acts, but no violence.

Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, said in January while serving as interior minister that the threat of jihadis returning home to Europe “represents for me, without a doubt, the greatest danger that we must face in the coming years.”

“It’s a phenomenon of unprecedented size,” Mr. Valls said.


Of the 11,000 foreign fighters estimated to be in Syria, as many as 2,000 are from Europe, including 400 to 500 from France, said Peter Neumann, who runs the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London, citing figures from several months ago that could be higher now. On Sunday, President François Hollande said about 700 residents of France were fighting or had fought in Syria.

France and Britain have begun to try to use family members as an early warning system to alert authorities when they see signs of a loved one becoming radicalized. Britain has begun a program to detain those who have gone to Syria on their return, charging many of them with terrorism offenses before the suspects have taken any overt action. This year Bosnia put in place a 10-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of trying to fight in a foreign war, a measure clearly aimed at Syria.


France moved earlier and more aggressively than many other nations, in part because of the 2012 case of the terrorist Mohammed Merah.

Mr. Merah, a French Muslim who had trained in Afghanistan, returned to his home city, Toulouse, and killed three French soldiers, three Jewish children and a rabbi who was the father of two of the children.


Before the most recent spate of arrests, including that of Mehdi Nemmouche, the Frenchman arrested in connection with the killings in Brussels, there were more than 50 terrorism-related cases at various stages in the Paris courts, which handle all terrorism cases regardless of where the people are apprehended, Mr. Lestel said.


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  • Puggg

    Let ’em go. Just don’t let ’em come back.

    Dumb dog can think of this.

    • Jesse James

      yeah and ship their extended families away to join them.

    • Mason Gull

      There’s a good chance that they’ll just die in Syria too. Assad has the upper hand and the terrorists have fled from Homs. It won’t end soon, but we can rest assured that the right side has won.

      Good luck, Assad!

  • DaveMed


    Wrong direction, France.

  • Einsatzgrenadier

    Islam is a threat to western civilization. These jihadis go to Syria, become even more radicalized through exposure to Wahhabi fundamentalism, then return to Europe. They can no longer work the survival jobs waiting for them in Europe, so they violently lash out at conventional white society. Because of multiculturalism and the ideology of open borders, Muslims become even more dangerous than they would otherwise be.

    Massive third world immigration is a terrible thing to inflict on any western society. Those responsible should be charged with treason and crimes against humanity.

    • Zaporizhian Sich

      Going to Syria and other wars those who cannot be named start is merely training for their slaughter of white Europeans, Americans and Russians. Indeed, those who imported these genocidal invaders in the first place should indeed be arrested, tried, jailed, then put to death for treason.

      • DaveMed

        Oh, for crying out loud.

        The Syrian civil war is not a Jewish conspiracy.

        • Zaporizhian Sich

          No, but flooding Muslims into Europe is.

        • Sloppo

          Have you by any chance seen the Youtube video entitled “all wars are bankers wars”? If so, then I suppose the next logical question would be “which ethnic group seems to be at the top of the food chain in the petro-dollar cartel?”

      • Ella

        I wonder how much Sarkozy, the former French President, and his crew had direct involvement with the continuing import of Muslims.

    • They not only return increasingly radicalized, but with weapons training and professional terrorist connections.

  • Irishgirl

    “Terrorist Mohammed Merah”

    Did anyone else notice that his last name spelled backward is harem?

    • Sick of it

      And that his name doesn’t sound French in the slightest. But of course we all knew that before even reading the article.

  • dd121

    This could be solved. If they leave to fight jihad don’t let them back in France.

  • JohnEngelman

    Whoever wins that civil war will not be friends of ours. They will not be people like us.

    • Unfortunately, whoever wins that civil war will also have a destroyed economy to contend with, and that fact will merely ensure that Syrian refugees will flood into Europe in droves.

  • LHathaway

    How do they know which side to back? And why? Who have they been listening to that helped them pick their side?

  • 4321realist

    “An estimated 2,000 “Europeans” are fighting in Syria.”

    And that number will only increase with each passing year.

    When they return “home” you can be sure their bomb-making abilities will be utilized to advance Islam in order to create a society governed by Sharia law.

    The white weenies in Europe need to be rounded up and given public trials for treason.
    Videos of their public hangings would be a nice addition to Youtube also.

  • IstvanIN

    The gate should swing one way: out. Let them go and DO NOT replace them.

  • none of your business

    The French are doing something. Somalis from Minnesota are also going overseas to fight Jihad. Do we stop them at the airport? No. All theFBI can do is beseech the Minnesota Muslin community to snitch if any Somali men seem likely to defect to the middle eastern wars.

    • jayvbellis

      French have always been tough against Muslims. Much better than Americans. Don’t buy that propaganda that the French never fight – no the. French don&’the love slaughtering other Europeans like dumb arse Amuricuns.

      Read about all the French Algerian war in the 1950s.

  • MBlanc46

    Let them go and hope that they don’t try to come back. Try to get their family and friends to go with them.

  • IKUredux

    These people are not French. Period. I am so sick of calling people “English”, French”, “German”, when in fact, you find out they are NOT! And, how do we know this? They are not White people from Europe.That’s it, that IS the definition of being “European”, it implicitly means a White person from the specific country. Algerians are NOT French. I don’t give a shiite that they call themselves French. Turks are NOT German, regardless of what they think. And, finally, Indians, Pakis, Jamaicans, are NOT English! Look, our tribes are falling apart.Our tribes mean EVERYTHING. It is how we identify ourselves. The English do not identify with the Pakis, the French do not identify with the Algerians, and the Germans sure as hell do not identify with the Turks. And yet, I, as an American, is expected to embrace as a fellow American, not only Pakis, Algerians, Turks, but EVERY SINGLE SOLITARY PERSON WHO SHOWS UP IN MY COUNTRY FOR WHATEVER REASON AND THINK OF THIS ALIEN, THIS STRANGER, THIS ABSOLUTELY COMPLETELY different person than me, who doesn’t speak my language, who believes in voodoo, who believes in cannibalism, who believes in honor killings, who believes in female mutilation, who believes in whatever, is now my FELLOW AMERICAN!!! Are you fing kidding me? I will NEVER consider the people they are allowing to infiltrate this country as my fellow citizens. I can’t even believe for one second, that this gov., would even think that I ever would. Therefore, this government must be abolished. It is no longer, the will of the people.

    • Katherine McChesney

      Reminds me of Emma West. Heroine.

  • jayvbellis

    “Mr. Merah, a French Muslim who had trained in Afghanistan, returned to his home city, Toulouse, and killed three French soldiers, three Jewish children and a rabbi who was the father of two of the children.”

    I knew it. This terrible crime was originally reported as due to the climate of hate, by Right Wing Nationalists, Front Nationale.

    Our European nationalists never murder innocent Jewish children, never have, never will.

    Please repost this truth in places that matter. At the least our oh so confused Christian Zionists in the South will oppose nasty Muslims murdering Jewish Children in Europe.