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US repatriates two dozen Westerners from Syria IS camp

By AFP

May 7, 2024 07:10 PM


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The United States announced Tuesday it had brought back two dozen Western citizens, half of them Americans, from a camp for Islamic State prisoners in Syria, its largest-ever repatriation as thousands languish.

In a complex operation involving US agencies, Kuwait, and pro-US Kurdish fighters, the United States repatriated 11 US citizens, including five minors, as well as a nine-year-old non-US sibling of an American, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

The United States in the same operation facilitated the repatriation of six Canadian citizens, four Dutch citizens, and one Finnish citizen, among them eight children, he said.

"This is the largest single repatriation of US citizens from northeast Syria to date," Blinken said in a statement.

"The only durable solution to the humanitarian and security crisis in the displaced persons camps and detention facilities in northeast Syria is for countries to repatriate, rehabilitate, reintegrate and, where appropriate, ensure accountability for wrongdoing," he said.

The United States has long pushed European governments to bring back nationals who went to fight for the Islamic State group -- or their children.

Most European countries have done so but slowly and despite initial reservations, especially in countries with a history of jihadist attacks at home such as France and Britain.

Blinken did not identify the people who were repatriated.

The New York Times, quoting unidentified sources, said they included an American woman, whose Turkish husband apparently took the family to Islamic State territory and was later killed, and their nine children.

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported last week that a man who joined Islamic State but then became a valuable informant was seeking the repatriation of two sons, one apparently the non-US citizen, to be raised by their grandparents in Minnesota.

The repatriations remain controversial in the United States as well, with the administration of former president Donald Trump in one prominent case insisting that a young woman seeking to return was not legitimately a US citizen.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) helped US forces crush the Islamic State group.

Five years after the extremists were ousted from their last territory, the SDF still holds more than 56,000 detainees with alleged or perceived links to the Islamic State group.

Kurdish authorities have been asking foreign governments to repatriate their nationals but Western governments have responded slowly for fear of domestic backlash.


AFP


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