Paris, Dec 29 (IANS/EFE) More than a thousand French nationals were linked one way or the other to jihadi groups fighting in Iraq and Syria, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday.
In an interview carried by the BFM TV and RMC broadcasting networks, Cazeneuve said that slightly over a thousand French nationals were associated with jihadi groups, and 380 were actively fighting alongside them in Syria or Iraq.
Another 180 are believed to be en route to those two countries to join the ranks of terrorist organisations such as the Islamic State (IS) or the Al-Nusra Front.
The authorities estimate that approximately 200 French nationals have expressed their intention to leave the country and another 200 have returned to France after participating in the jihadi movement.
The minister insisted that the French authorities have launched an extremely proactive action against this phenomenon, opening 103 judicial investigations focused on 500 people, resulting in 118 instances of charges being filed and dozens of arrests.
Cazenueve defended his bill against jihadism, currently being debated in the French parliament, which stipulates that those suspected of travelling to conflict zones abroad to join terror organisations will lose their French identity cards.
He noted that one of its main purposes was to prevent the entry of those without French nationality into France and stressed the importance of shutting down jihadi websites, since 90 percent of the young people were recruited to the jihadi cause over the internet.