Behind the mask of France's jihadists

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A raft of new measures aimed at preventing the growing number of French nationals joining jihadist movements in Syria was approved at a meeting of the French cabinet on Wednesday. Official estimates are that 700 French citizens and residents have joined jihadist groups engaged in the three-year old civil war against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, some of them teenagers. The issue was highlighted during the release last weekend of four French journalists who had been kidnapped in Syria by an al-Qaeda-linked group, when they said they had identified francophones among their captors. To understand more about just who the French jihadists are, and what motivates them, Mediapart Arab affairs correspondent Pierre Puchot turned to Radio France International journalist David Thomson, who carried out in-depth interviews with 18 of them for his recently-published book Les Français jihadistes.

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"France will take all measures to dissuade, prevent and punish those who are tempted to fight where they have no reason to be," French President François Hollande announced earlier this week, referring to the estimated 700 French nationals and residents who have engaged alongside jihadist groups in the civil war in Syria since it began in 2011.