A teenage girl planning to go to Syria was arrested at an airport in southern France this weekend, and a man accused of recruiting her was arrested hours later, a French government official said.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve did not explicitly say the 16-year-old girl was connecting with militants, but he urged families of young people who seemed inclined toward “violent radicalization” to contact his department.
The girl was intercepted at an airport in Nice on Saturday as she prepared to board a flight to Turkey and continue on to Syria, Cazeneuve said Sunday in a statement. He said her parents knew nothing about her intentions.
A man in his 20s who paid for the girl’s plane ticket and is suspected of recruiting her was arrested that night and will have to explain to judges his role in the matter, Cazeneuve said.
France’s concern about radicalization is underscored by pollsters.
A survey conducted in July by ICM Research found that 16% of French adults had a favorable opinion of Islamic State, which has used beheadings, crucifixions and mass shootings as it has taken control of parts of Iraq and Syria and declared an Islamic caliphate. Islamic State recently posted on the Web a grisly video of one of the beheadings -- that of James Foley, a journalist it had held captive for more than a year. And last week, it posted a video of what appeared to be the mass slaying of 150 Syrian soldiers.
Islamic State's tactics against other Muslims whom it considered heretics are so savage that Al Qaeda's leaders disowned the group this year.
Among the youngest French people ICM surveyed — ages 18 to 24 — the favorability rate for Islamic State was even higher: 27%. The survey also found that 7% of adults in Britain and 2% of adults in Germany had a favorable opinion of the group.
Last week, White House officials confirmed the death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, a U.S. citizen reported to have been fighting for Islamic State. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman told CNN last week that officials estimate the number of Americans fighting with Syrian-based groups ranges from several dozen to 100.
And from death row, the former U.S. Army psychiatrist who shot dozens of people at Ft. Hood in 2009, killing 13 of them, just requested to join Islamic State.
Times staff writer David Ng contributed to this report.
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