Twenty-five French citizens have been killed fighting in the ongoing Syrian Civil War, officials announced Friday, as the phenomenon of foreign nationals fighting in the Islamic holy war mushrooms.
Spanish authorities stated that they had arrested a French citizen of Algerian descent, 24, on suspicions of joining Al Qaeda-linked groups in the war between the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and opposition forces.
French security officials earlier this week also deported another Algerian man who was associated with radical Islamist movements and was recruiting Muslims to fight in Afghanistan and Syria. A security source stated that the man had arrived in France at age two, and lived with his parents in Albertville.
He was stopped in mid-March after trying to illegally enter Syria via a bus, which was carrying tens of Jihadists from France to Aleppo, Syria. Aleppo has been a nexus of radical infighting and Al Qaeda activity. The day after his arrival in France, he was deported to his native land of Algeria, where he lived with his wife and young daughter. According to French intelligence, which spotted him leaving Syria in February, he had intended to join the Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
French Interior Ministry officials are stepping up their fight against foreign nationals in Syria. The Ministry recently approved a new policy that allows foreign nationals found to be actively involved in Jihadist activities abroad to be immediately deported from France. According to official figures, nearly 300 French citizens have taken part in the civil war in Syria.
The numbers contradict earlier estimates, most notably from President Francois Hollande, who stated in January that at least 700 French citizens were actively fighting in Syria.
French intelligence officials noted at the time that, of those, 12 were minors - and 21 have been killed.
“Today we see a mass recruitment [for the Syrian Civil War],” an anonymous intelligence official told French daily Le Figaro. “This is like a factory.”
France is only one of the many Western countries experiencing something of a "jihadist drain," with hundreds of Western nationals joining the conflict. Since 2011, the war - which has killed over 130,000 people - has mushroomed from a regional conflict to an all-out Islamic holy war between the Middle East's Shia and Sunni populations.
Foreign nationals from around the world have been joining the fight. Canadian, American, and European fighters have made jihad videos from Syria; British Muslims, in particular, have been flocking to the war from all sectors of society.
Increasingly, however, western states have become uneasy over the growing influence of radical Islamist elements among the rebel movement. Recently, funding for some "extremist" rebel groups has been revoked, but foreign nationals - including many western citizens - continue to pour into Syria, and western security services are concerned about what this means for their own countries' future security.
The West has become so concerned, in fact, that they have reached out to Assad's regime forces over the issue - but no progress has yet been made. In the meantime, eyewitness accounts have confirmed what analysts have long suspected: that Al Qaeda is training Western nationals in the war-torn country to bring fundamentalist Islam - and terrorism - back home with them.