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Middle East

Frenchman jailed for kidnapping daughter, joining Syria jihadists

media Al-Nusra fighters in Aleppo in 2016 REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

A French-Tunisian man was jailed for 10 years on Tuesday for going to fight in Syria and kidnapping his 18-month-old daughter to take her with him. The latest figures show that 300 French Islamists have been killed in the Iraq-Syria conflict.

A Paris court found 29-year-old Hamza Mandhouj guilty of criminal conspiracy with terrorist aims and abduction of a minor and ordered that he must serve a minimum of half his sentence.

Denouncing the "appalling blackmail" he exercised on the child's mother, Meriam Rhaiem, the prosecution described the case as "a marital dispute overlaid by a wish to take part in armed jihad".

On 14 October, as divorce proceedings were going through, Mandhouj collected his daughter, Aissa, from his parents-in-law and never took her back.

He left for Turkey, going on to Syria in December to join his brother, Mohamed Ali, who was already working with Oumar Diaby, a recruiter for the Al-Nusra Front Islamist group.

Compensation for kidnapping

Mandhouj denied wanting to join a terrorist group but the prosecution claimed he gave logistical support to recruits and encouraged minors to come to Syria.

He was caught when his ex-wife, whom he phoned regularly to try to persuade her to join him, arranged a meeting in a hotel in Turkey near the Syrian border so that he could hand over Assia.

Mandhouj was ordered to pay 60,000 euros in compensation for the abduction.

Nearly 300 French jihadis dead

A total of 288 French nationals, including 12 women, have been killed while involved with Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria since 2014, France Info TV has revealed.

According to the French government, 1,700 French citizens have gone to the area during that period.

Figures brought up to date on Tuesday evening showed 256 adults and 78 minors had returned.

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