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France

French mother brings home daughter taken by alleged Syria jihad father

media Members of Jabhat al-Nusra in Aleppo Reuters/Ammar Abdullah

A young mother returned to France early Wednesday with her two-year-old daughter, who had been taken to Turkey by her father, suspected of trying to join jihadi groups fighting in Syria.

A plane chartered by the French interior ministry touched down at the Villacoublay air base near Paris at 2.15am with Meriam Rhaiem, 25, and her daughter, Assia, on board.

"It's a moment of great emotion with the arrival of Meriam Rhaiem and her daughter Assia, after months of waiting," said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve who was there to meet the plane.

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He thanked Turkish authorities for doing “all they could to ensure a happy ending”.

In March Rhaiem appealed to the French government to recognise her daughter as “the youngest French hostage”.

Her husband, whom she is divorcing, had failed to bring the girl back after spending the day with her in October and had left France by road, bound for Turkey.

He had told her he wanted to join the Islamist Al-Nusra Front, which is fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and asked her to come and join them.

The man, who was arrested in Turkey at the weekend and is still in detention, had taken Assia to the conflict zone, Cazeneuve told France Culture radio on Wednesday.

He became radicalised after visiting Mecca, asking his wife to wear head cover, complaining about her working and forbidding her to play music to their daughter, according to Rhaiem’s lawyer, Gabriel Versini-Bullara.

French officials estimate that about 900 French nationals or residencts have travelled to Syria or plan to go there.

Cazeneuve has set up a hotline for parents who believe their children are tempted to fight in Syria and unveiled a bill in July aimed at stopping aspiring jihadists from travelling there.

It includes a ban on foreign travel of up to six months for individuals suspected of radicalisation, and gives authorities powers to temporarily confiscate and invalidate their passports
 

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