Eight French jihadists, including a Muslim convert suspected of involvement in the 2015 Paris attacks, have been captured in Syria by Kurdish fighters.
Thomas Barnouin, 36, described as a “jihadist commander”, was detained near the Iraqi border earlier this month with two other French converts named as Romain Garnier, 33, and Thomas Collange. They were among a group of eight suspected jihadists from France, French radio reported.
Barnouin, who converted to Islam in 2000 and is also known as Abdelhakim, left France for Syria in 2014 after serving a five-year prison sentence for terrorist offences.
He has been linked with Mohamed Merah, who killed seven people including three Jewish children in a shooting spree in the south of France in 2012. He was also close to Fabien Clain, another convert who announced that Isil carried out the Paris attacks, killing 130 people in November 2015, police sources said.
About 1,700 French nationals joined Isil forces in Syria or Iraq, 278 of whom have been killed, according to the French government. Another 302 have returned to France, where most are in custody.
As Isil was dislodged from its former strongholds in Syria and Iraq, many French and other foreign fighters are believed to have fled to other countries such as Libya, where they joined jihadist groups.
Barnouin and the other French nationals detained by the Kurdish YPG militia could face execution in Syria, according to French media.
Samia Maktouf, a lawyer acting for the mother of Imad Ibn Ziaten, a French soldier murdered by Mohamed Merah in 2012, called for Barnouin to be extradited to France.
Some of the Paris attackers were trained in Syria and the French authorities fear that returning jihadists could carry out further attacks in France.
The French government has said jihadists captured in Syria or Iraq must face local justice. President Emmanuel Macron has said that women accompanied by children will be assessed “case by case” to determine whether they can return to France.
Three French children aged 3 to 8 whose parents joined Isil in Iraq were recently repatriated.