International Investigation

Why so few French jihadists have returned from Syria

Following the military rout of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq, large numbers of French jihadists were forecast to return home. But in fact, those who have made the journey back represent relatively few of the estimated 700 who joined the ranks of IS in the Middle East. Since 2016, just 64 men and women jihadists have returned – and only seven so far this year. One principal reason is the logistical difficulties for those fleeing the zone and the high fees demanded by people smugglers. But the situation presents a potential security threat in that those who escape by their own means can become invisible to intelligence services.   Matthieu Suc reports.  

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During the years of the Islamic State (IS) group’s self-declared caliphate over swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, beginning in 2014, it was relatively easy for jihadists to reach the outside world. That is, as long as they had what their hierarchy would consider to be a valid reason, and essentially this would be for the purpose of either committing a terrorist attack or to seek medical attention, such as undergoing surgery, in Turkey.

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