French Teen Arrested Before Going to Syria to Join Islamists

16-year-old girl suspected of trying to reach Syria to join Islamist rebels arrested in the city of Nice.

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A 16-year-old girl suspected of trying to reach Syria to join Islamist rebels has been arrested in the southeastern French city of Nice, Reuters reported on Sunday.

France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement that border police at Nice airport arrested the girl on Saturday, before her departure "for jihad" purposes.

A man around the age of 20 was later arrested on suspicion of being her recruiter and of purchasing her airline ticket to Turkey, in order to reach Syria, where she would join the jihadist rebels.

Civilians joining jihadist groups in the Middle East and then possibly returning home to carry out attacks in their homeland has been an issue of great concern for Western countries.

Thousands of foreign fighters, many from Western Europe but also from other countries such as the United States and Canada, have joined extremist Islamist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Reuters noted that France has made clamping down on radicalized Islamist cells a priority, but has not been able to stem a wave of its citizens and others, some as young as 14, from leaving France to join the Syrian civil war.

France estimates that approximately 800 of its citizens have left to join Islamist groups in Syria.

Cazeneuve unveiled measures in April to try to prevent young French Muslims and others from becoming radicalized, including a hotline set up for parents to signal suspicious behavior in their children.

Authorities have received nearly 300 tips via the hotline, the statement said, 45 percent of which involved women or young girls.

The family of the girl arrested on Saturday was not aware of her intentions, Cazeneuve said.