January 28, 2015 / 3:29 PM / 5 years ago

France unveils anti-jihad campaign with video and web site

French President Francois Hollande waits for guests at the Elysee Palace in Paris, January 28, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - France unveiled a short video and web site on Wednesday designed to dissuade potential jihadists from joining Islamist fighting groups in Syria and Iraq, where recruiters have lured hundreds of Westerners using slickly produced clips and social media.

In the fast-paced 2-minute montage, an unnamed recruiter approaches a potential jihadist on Facebook noting his interest in the Syrian conflict and asking if he would like to join friends fighting “over there”.

It then shows a series of jihadist recruitment statements superimposed over footage of Islamist militants celebrating, which are then contradicted by statements of the ‘reality’ laid over footage of executions, crucifixions, children suffering and women crying.

“They tell you: ‘Sacrifice yourself at our side and you’ll defend a noble cause’. In reality, you will discover hell on earth and will die alone, far from home,” the statements read.

The video was posted on a new web site (www.stop-djihadisme.gouv.fr) featuring information for parents worried their children could join the fighting, including a toll-free number they can call to speak to indoctrination specialists.

The government-funded efforts follow similar U.S. initiatives including a video and the #ThinkAgainTurnAway Twitter profile, which has more than 20,000 followers and regularly publishes stories against the Islamic State.

They make up one aspect of a wider French campaign to thwart future attacks and counter jihadist ideology after 17 people and three Islamist attackers were killed in a series of attacks in early January. The government estimates that some 1,200 people are involved in jihadist circles with several hundred having traveled to Syria and Iraq - more than have left from any other Western nation.

A pilot program to stop young people from leaving to Syria was launched late last year.

The government has also charged a rights group representing the victims of terror attacks to prevent jihadist recruitment in prisons.

Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur; editing by John Irish

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