Police hunt pair of French schoolgirls feared bound for Syria to join ISIS

© Yves Herman
French police have launched a manhunt to track down two schoolgirls thought to have been radicalized and desperate to join jihadists in Syria. The teens are “likely to leave the country by all means and to use false identities,” local authorities warn.

The minors, identified as Israé Abou Serie Mohamed, 15, and Louisa Bounechada, 16, were last seen on Friday afternoon, leaving their school in Seynod, southwest of Annecy. Both planned to take a train to Paris, according to investigators. Police were only alerted on Friday night, by which time the teens had managed to escape the town in the Rhône-Alpes region in southeastern France, Le Pariesien reported.  

Israe's mother told the newspaper that her daughter had tried to leave for Syria before.

“Two years ago, I managed to rescue her almost at the last minute. I caught her at the train station. She wanted to leave for Syria. I received a tip-off from some people and was able to intervene. I alerted the authorities to help bring her back, and there was later a process of deradicalization. Israe was placed in foster care. She had a relapse not long ago, and it started all over again. She got bamboozled at some point,” Nadia said as quoted by Le Parisien.

“We're not a religious family. We are Muslims, but of a secular origin. They had put it in her head that she must go to Syria to help children, to serve a good cause," the woman added.

After her first failed attempt to leave France, Israe was prohibited from leaving the country. The same measure was taken on Saturday against her friend Louisa. Air and border police have been informed of the runaway adolescents. The girls’ descriptions have been circulated and anyone spotting them has been asked to report it to the police.

The number of French women joining Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria appears to be on the rise, French media reported earlier this year.

Until recently, the majority of French nationals heading to Syria were men. But according to a confidential report by intelligence agencies, seen by France Info, women currently make up 35 percent of French citizens traveling to Iraq and Syria to join IS – up from only 10 percent in 2013. In September last year, 164 French women were estimated to have made the journey to join the terrorist group. By December that number had already reached 220.

The figures also reveal that one-third of these women are converts to Islam, compared to just one sixth of French men fighting with IS, France Info reported.

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French journalist Anna Erelle described in her book “The Skin Of A Jihadist”, released last year, how an IS terrorist tried to recruit her on Skype in 2014, believing that she and her fictional girlfriend were only 15.

“It’s my job to recruit people, and I’m really good at my job. You can trust me. You’ll be really well taken care of here. You’ll be important. And if you agree to marry me, I’ll treat you like a queen,” the recruiter told her.

“My friend Yasmine is Muslim, she complains about not being able to practise her religion in Toulouse. I could invite her to come with me, but I’m not sure if she’s allowed, since she’s a minor,” the covert journalist said.

“Of course she can come!”

“She’s only 15.”

“I fight for Sharia law every day. Here, women are supposed to get married when they turn 14. If Yasmine comes, I’ll find her a good man,” the terrorist, claiming to be in Syria, promised.