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Support Network for French Jihadists 'Doubles in Year'

The number of French nationals supporting jihadist fighters in Syria and Iraq has more than doubled in the past year, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Tuesday.

The number of French nationals supporting jihadist fighters in Syria and Iraq has more than doubled in the past year, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Tuesday.

Nearly 1,900 people were involved in travelling to the Middle East and the support network for recruiting fighters, fundraising and organizing transport in January, Cazeneuve told a parliamentary commission.

"The French involved in the jihadist sector are estimated at 1,683 people, a surge of 203 percent since January 2015, comparing to 2014," he said.

"To date, 457 French, mostly young, are present in Iraq and Syria.”

The French nationals in Iraq and Syria include 137 women and 80 children, Cazeneuve said, adding that a further 320 recruits are currently travelling to the region.

More than 100 French have been killed in fighting, including eight in suicide missions.

Cazeneuve said 278 French fighters had left Syria voluntarily, with 213 having returned to France. "There are supervised returns from Syria practically every week, sometimes every day."

The minister, who was addressing parliament on the anti-terrorism law passed by the National Assembly earlier this month, said 36 illegal websites had been blocked by the security services since February.

The new powers, introduced in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, allow intelligence agencies to tap phones and emails without seeking judicial permission and have sparked protests against intrusive surveillance without guarantees for individual freedom and privacy.

In January, the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence estimated that up to 1,200 French nationals had joined militant groups in Iraq and Syria, out of 4,000 from Western Europe.

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