A French couple whom acquaintances said recently turned to radical Islam are believed to have traveled to the Middle East with four young girls all under age 5, French prosecutors said.
Warrants have been issued for the couple's arrest after each of their former spouses raised alarm about the children's disappearances, Agence France-Presse reported.
Ilham Tarbouni said she has not seen her 3-year-old daughter, Jana, since she went to visit her father for the summer, and now believes he took her with him to join up with a radical Islamist group in Syria.
A view taken on September 8, 2014 in Villefontaine, central eastern France, shows the building where a couple was living and believed to have left for the Middle East with four children. French prosecutors said that two European arrest warrants had been issued for the couple. (Philippe Merle/AFP/Getty Images)
Tarbouni said that when she was unable to reach her former husband, whom France 24 identified as Eddy Leroux, she reported to police that her daughter had been kidnapped.
France 24 reported that Leroux, who is a Muslim convert, had disappeared from his apartment in central France, along with his new partner, Jihane.
Police went to the home of the father, a Muslim convert, and found it empty. The 34-year-old had allegedly professed his intention to go to Saudi Arabia or Iraq.
His new companion, the mother of three young girls, was also missing. The father of two of the three, Abdel Hakim Labriak, filed a separate suit saying he feared his former wife and his daughters “had left for Iraq or Syria.”
Hundreds of French nationals have answered the call of jihad and traveled to Syria as recruits of the Islamic State and other extremist groups.
The European country is considering legislation to thwart radicalized young people from traveling to Syria, with security officials fearing they could later return home to launch terrorist attacks.
One bill being considered would allow for the temporary confiscation of the passports of aspiring jihadists.
Last month, a 16-year-old French girl was arrested at an airport in Nice along with her suspected recruiter, following suspicions that she was headed to Syria to join a militant Islamist group.