A defense ministry source has confirmed that a dozen former French soldiers have joined jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq. Most of the group had served in elite forces, including the Special Forces and the Foreign Legion.
According to RT.com, reports of French ex-soldiers turning to jihad were confirmed on Wednesday by an anonymous defense ministry source. “We estimate around a dozen former troops have joined these networks,” the source said. “Our concern is not former soldiers. It’s preventing the phenomenon of radicalization within our forces.”
There are fears that the new ISIS recruits will turn their guns on their former comrades or could even use their specialized skills to execute attacks on French soil.
The news of the highly trained rogue officers was made public in the midst of the French government announcing the development of a new multi-million anti-terrorism plan. Shortly after, information was released that their military intelligence will be recruiting an additional 65 staff to its team of 1,000. Their primary purpose will be to access and track potential recruits that apply for elite units. In addition, their responsibilities will also include monitoring ex-soldiers more closely to prevent possible radicalization.
The International Business Times reported that Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian declined to comment directly on the news of the ex-soldiers activities, but told the press that the cases of former troops joining jihadist groups such as ISIS are “extremely rare.”
David Thomson, Radio France Internationale journalist and author of The French Jihadists, warned that the “rare cases” should not be underestimated. “These people who come to Syria and Iraq are already fighters and they know the way French troops fight,” he said.
The French daily publication L’Opinion pointed out an incident involving a French jihadist who had served in the elite 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment for five years. During his enlistment, he completed commando training that included fighting techniques, shooting and survival. The man was later hired by a private security firm to work on oil facilities in the Arabian Peninsula.
“He was gradually radicalized, letting himself grow a beard and adhering to Islamist ideology,” the daily wrote. The man eventually went to Syria.
Radio France Internationale has also reported that some ISIS fighters have confessed to being former French soldiers on social networks. “Others are explosive experts, young people in their twenties. Some have been converted to Islam, others are from Arab-Muslim culture,” stated a Radio France Internationale report.