Good Jihadist, Bad Jihadist? France’s Selective Struggle Against Jihadism in Syria

Posted by John Rosenthal

Last week, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced with much fanfare the launching of a plan to stem the ever-increasing flow of young French Muslims to Syria to participate in “jihad.” But the comments of a French intelligence officer quoted in today’s edition of the daily Libération suggest that the efforts of French authorities in this regard are highly selective. Referring to the French jihadist recruits, the unnamed intelligence officer explained:

We distinguish between those that fight against Bashar al-Assad as part of the FSA [Free Syrian Army] – a struggle that has been given legitimacy by the West and by numerous fatwas – and jihadists that have been taken under the wing of al-Qaeda veterans and trained in the use of explosives and the art of deception, in order to foment attacks in Europe.

Only the latter, per the Libération report, will face arrest upon their return to France. By “al-Qaeda veterans,” the intelligence officer presumably has in mind the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham [ISIS]. It should be noted, however, that the official affiliate of al-Qaeda in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, is a crucial ally of the FSA.

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