Nearly 10 French soldiers desert special forces unit to join Islamic State fighters
The French government has confirmed that several of it’s soldiers have deserted the country’s special forces to join Jihadists fighting for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Around ten soldiers, including former paratroopers and French foreign legionnaires, are assumed to be fighting on behalf of different Jihadist groups, including the Islamic State. Most worrying of all are deserters from France’s elite Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, one of the most experienced special forces units in Europe.
These individuals are highly trained, with expert knowledge of operating and maintaining a variety of military grade weapons, vehicles and equipment.
One of the defectors has apparently become leader of an Islamic group operating in Syria, composed of trained militants born in France. Others, thought to be in their twenties, are explosive experts. Some of the defectors had converted to Islam, while others were radicalized French citizens from an Arab-Muslim background, according to Radio France International.
The presence of French special forces personnel within radical terrorists groups in the Mideast was confirmed by French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Drian, though he played down the phenomenon, calling it “extremely rare”.
France’s armed forces’ internal security and protection unit, in charge of ensuring that those within the armed forces are acting appropriately, will “reinforce its vigilance and see its means increased” said Drian.
The news came as French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, unveiled new anti-terrorism measures worth over $600 million, a reaction to the attacks in Paris earlier this month when 17 people were killed.
By 2018, France will create 2,680 new jobs to fight terrorism, half of which will be intelligence-based. France now monitors 3,000 people involved in “terrorist networks,” according to Valls, including a 130 per cent increase in those linked to networks in Iraq and Syria in the past year alone.
France will also recruit 60 Muslim clerics to work with those at risk of radicalization in France’s prison system. In addition, five units will be created to isolate radicalized inmates and stop them from converting other prisoners.
Valls said that the prospect of stripping the civic rights of those convicted of terrorism would be debated. A similar law was implemented after the Second World War, stopping Nazi collaborators from voting, holding office or working for the state.
In addition to these measures, France is looking to create “cyber patrol” units which will track Jihadists and fundamentalist recruitment online, launching a website to counter indoctrination.
These measures have all been taken to combat the growing fear of Islamic terror attacks in France and other European cities, following the massacre in Paris earlier this month.
Two brothers linked to al-Qaeda stormed a satirical weekly publication, Charlie Hebdo, and killed 12 people on Jan. 7. At the same time, another radical killed a police officer and took several Jewish hostages at a supermarket, killing four of them.