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Paris Court Sentences Seven for Aiding Iraqi Insurgents

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A Paris court has sentenced seven men to jail on charges of establishing a network to recruit people to join the insurgency in Iraq.  Lisa Bryant reports from the French capital.

The seven men sentenced included five French, one Algerian and one Moroccan, who were handed terms ranging from 18 months to seven years in jail.  All seven are charged with setting up a recruitment network in northeastern Paris aimed at sending would-be fighters to join the insurgency in Iraq in 2004.

The heaviest sentences - six years and seven years in jail, respectively - were handed to the group's leaders, Farid Benyettou and Boubakeur El Hakim.  The others received lesser terms.  One had lost an arm and an eye fighting in Iraq.

The recruitment of so-called Muslim jihadists in France and elsewhere in Europe has worried European governments, in part because they feared the fighters would return and sow unrest back home.  Similar Muslim fighters previously left to join other insurgency movements in Chechnya and Afghanistan.

But French terrorism expert Roland Jaquard said that unlike previous movements, many joining the Iraqi insurgency did not first receive terrorism training in places like Afghanistan or Pakistan.

"The problem with this kind of jihadism is they have decide to go to Iraq directly," he said.  "They had no instructions.  They say nothing to the families.  They disappeared just like that."

Jaquard estimates that roughly 60 French Muslims have left for Iraq to join the insurgency in recent years.  But he believes they have had limited impact.  Some have disappeared.  Others, he thinks, have been jailed in Syria.

Jaquard says recruiting would-be jihadists continues in Europe - and has become easier, thanks to the Internet.

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