French Ambassador to Russia Sylvie Bermann doubts that the US has defeated Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in Syria, despite President Donald Trump claiming that Washington is on the verge of controlling “100% of the caliphate.”
“ISIS is weakened but not demolished,” the diplomat told RIA news agency, adding that France was “surprised” by the US’ sudden move to pull troops out of conflict-torn Syria.
Trump said last week that Washington seized almost all territory previously held by IS in Iraq and Syria and that it is about to control “100% of the caliphate.”
“I don’t think Syria is fully freed from the terrorists as it is claimed,” Sylvie Bermann said, recalling a terrorist attack in Manbij in January and adding that France is particularly worried about IS captives.
Last month, Macron’s government revealed it will be repatriating 130 jihadists detained in Northern Syria and Iraq. France’s initial policy was to let local authorities judge captured IS fighters but, with US leaving the region, officials fear the jihadists will be freed. The plans prompted outrage among right-wing politicians who said the return of the militants increases the risk of further terror attacks.
A cell of French and Belgian IS fighters, who sneaked into the country from Turkey, were behind the November 2015 Paris mass shootings and suicide bombings which killed 130 people. The 2016 Nice truck attack, which claimed 86 lives, was also organized by jihadist militants, according to Europol.