Isis and other jihadist groups 'have ten former French soldiers' fighting among their ranks

French Defence Minister confirms report ex-soldiers are fighting in Middle East

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The Independent Online

At least 10 former French soldiers have allegedly joined the ranks of Isis and other jihadist groups in the Middle East, the French Defence Minister has claimed.

Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed a report on French radio RFI  that former French soldiers are in Syria and Iraq on Wednesday as France announced fresh anti-terror measures following the Paris shootings.

Many of the soldiers are believed to be fighting with Isis, including a former member of France's elite First Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, one of Europe’s most experienced special forces units, The Telegraph reports.

The unidentified individual, who served in the army for five years, has reportedly been trained in shooting and survival techniques.

RFI claimed one of the ex-soldiers has become the leader of a group of Islamists operating in Syria who have all received combat training. Others were experts in explosives, according to the report.

Some are believed to be Muslim converts, while others are radicalised French citizens from an Arab-Muslim "background".

Mr Le Drian insisted that cases of French soldiers joining Isis are an extreme rarity. He said the French armed forces’ internal security and protection unit will "reinforce its vigilance and see its means increased" in response.

The confirmation that troops have joined jihadist groups came as the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced plans to invest 425 million euros in counterterrorism initiatives.

The measures include involving internet companies and social media to help in the fight, creating an improved database of suspected extremists, and increasing intelligence-gathering on jihadis and other radicals — in part by making it easier to tap phones.

About 2,600 counter-terrorism officers will be hired, 1,100 of them specifically for intelligence services.

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