France’s only de-radicalization center closes its doors
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France’s only de-radicalization center closes its doors

Minister says state-run prevention program launched less than a year ago 'showed its limitations'

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb leaves the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 28, 2017, after the weekly cabinet meeting. (AFP/Bertrand Guay)
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb leaves the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 28, 2017, after the weekly cabinet meeting. (AFP/Bertrand Guay)

PARIS — France’s first jihadist de-radicalization centre is set to close after less than a year, the government said on Friday.

The center in Pontourny, western France, which opened in September 2016, was aimed at convincing radicalized 18 to 30-year-olds to turn their back on extremism.

But Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the experiment “has not been conclusive.”

“The experiment of this center, which operates on a voluntary basis, has shown its limitations. The government has therefore decided to end the experiment,” the minister added.

The center can accommodate 25 people, but has never had more than nine residents, none of whom have completed the de-radicalization program. The center has been empty since February.

Collomb said the government would now look at ways of developing alternative de-radicalization program.

The centre in Pontourny had been criticized by local residents alarmed that those at the center could come and go freely in the town.

A Senate report published on July 12 was heavily critical of France’s de-radicalization strategy and called for the center to be closed.

France has been a consistent target for jihadists since 2015, with more than 230 people killed in attacks.

The deadliest was a series of shootings and suicide bombings targeting bars, a concert hall and the Stade de France national stadium in Paris in November 2015 in which 130 people died.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in revenge for French air strikes on its militants in Syria and Iraq.

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