“There are 1,400 individuals who are involved in the departures for jihad, for terrorism, in Syria and Iraq,” Valls said, as quoted by AFP. “There are close to 70 French citizens or residents in France who have died in Syria and Iraq in the ranks of the terrorists”.
The figures have risen since last month, when it was estimated that 1,200 had left France. What is even more frightening is that the numbers have increased almost 50 times since the mid-2012.
“It is a massive jump in very little time: there were just about 30 cases when I became interior minister (in mid-2012) and 1,400 today” Valls said, quoted by AFP.
France, along with Belgium, has the largest numbers of volunteers joining the IS, AFP says. Both girls and boys as young as 13 years old are being recruited by the IS through social media purporting jihadi propaganda. Boys are lured through combat and weaponry, while girls are mostly encouraged to marry jihadists and raise their families as the future generation of Islam. Females make up some 10 percent of those recruited from abroad, 25 percent of which are from France, the Guardian reported in October.
The two gunmen, Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said, who slaughtered 12 people at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, were likely among those French citizens that left the country to train with the jihadists and later returned to France. About a dozen networks that were sending people to Syria and Iraq were identified and dismantled by the French police last month.