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France to clamp down on Syria jihad networks

media French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve Reuters/Christian Hartmann

France’s government this week launches a plan to stop young people going to fight with jihadi groups against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Nearly 700 French citizens or residents have gone to Syria to fight since the conflict began three years ago, the interior ministry estimates.

New Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was to formally announce the measures on Wednesday, although President François Hollande gave an idea of what was coming on Tuesday.

"The interior minister is working on a plan to dissuade, prevent and punish those who might be tempted to fight battles in places where they do not belong," he said at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. "This is not to prevent acts of faith but rather to make sure that religion is not used for other purposes, the most terrible of which is terrorism."

Cazeneuve’s plan is based on months of research by his ministry.

The strategy aims to tackle Islamic radicalism from its inception, which often begins online:

  • Intelligence services will increase surveillance of websites devoted to jihad and/or showing how to make and use explosives and trying to track down recruiters for armed groups;
  • After several cases of minors leaving France for Syria, family members will be able to alert the authorities if they fear a relative has been attending fundamentalist mosques or visiting radical websites and a requirement for under-18s to have parental authority to leave the country, which was scrapped in 2012, will be revived;
  • "Strong intuition" that someone is thinking of going abroad to fight will be sufficient grounds for putting them on police records, some of which will be shared with other European countries;
  • The internal security force DCRI, will be placed under the direct control of the interior minster.
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