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Germany repatriates female IS members and their children

March 31, 2022

Foreign Minister Baerbock confirmed that nearly all German women who are willing to return have done so. Many were taken into custody upon arrival on terrorism-related charges.

Samira, a Belgian national married to a French Islamic State member, Karam El-Harchaoui, walks with their son at Camp Roj in north Syria
Some German women and their children have been living in detention camps like Roj for yearsImage: Maya Alleruzzo/AP/picture alliance

The government has brought back several German women suspected of having belonged to the so-called "Islamic State," along with their children, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock confirmed on Thursday.

Ten women and 27 children arrived in Frankfurt late on Wednesday after an "extremely difficult operation" to extract them from the Roj detention camp in northeast Syria, Baerbock explained.

"The 27 children are victims of 'Islamic State,' and they have the right to a better future away from its deadly ideology, and to live in safety, as we wish for our own children," the minister said, adding that "the mothers have to take responsibility for their actions. Some of them were immediately taken into custody upon arrival in Germany." 

Nearly all German women who joined IS have now returned

The federal police confirmed that several of the women, aged between 23 and 36, had been arrested on suspicion of committing terrorism-related offenses. Others are still being investigated, official said.

According to German tabloid Bild, some of the women had already fled the IS-controlled areas in 2017 and surrendered to Kurdish fighters, while others had stayed until the militia's military defeat in the spring of 2019.

Similar such operations have been carried out in the past few years. Baerbock said that now, almost all female German citizens who wanted to return had been repatriated.

"With today's action, the majority of German children whose mothers are willing to return to Germany are safe," she said. "There are now only a few special cases for which we are continuing to work on individual solutions."

Baerbock thanked the Kurdish administration of northeastern Syria, as well as the US, for their help in the operation.

es/kb (dpa, AFP)