French interior minister Gerard Collomb revealed, in a newspaper interview, that 271 jihadi militants have returned to the country from war zones in Iraq and Syria and all of them are subject to investigation by public prosecutors.
With around 700 French nationals estimated to have fought in ISIS ranks in Iraq and Syria, France- like other European countries- has been struggling with how to deal with the pouring so-called returnees.
Some 217 adult French nationals have returned to France from fighting in the Middle East, the interior minister said. In addition, some 54 minors have reportedly made it back home after fighting alongside ISIS militants.
An undisclosed number of them have been detained while the rest are being vetted by public prosecutors, he added.
Asked how many French jihadis had been killed in Iraq and Syria, Collomb told the Sunday newspaper that it was difficult to corroborate information.
The head of France’s special forces said in June that his units were directly involved in street battles in the Iraqi city of Mosul but denied they were specifically targeting French-born jihadis fighting for ISIS.
France has participated in a US-led coalition battling ISIS in Iraq, and it also intervened in Mali to push back an Islamist rebellion in the west African state.
French military interventions overseas have exposed it to attacks by Islamist militants at home. Gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in and around Paris in November 2015 and over 100 were killed in other Islamist attacks in France in the past two-and-a-half years.
Collomb said the threat of militant attacks was “very high”, citing two incidents targeting police on Paris’ Champs Elysees and seven foiled plots so far this year.
An increasing number of people were being flagged under a preventative monitoring system for radicalized behavior, with more than 18,500 people reported, he said.
France has been subject to state of emergency legislation, giving police extended powers, since the November 2015 attacks, and the government plans to incorporate some of these measures into ordinary law through a counter-terrorism bill to be put before parliament in the coming months.