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Turkey starts repatriating 'IS' jihadis

November 11, 2019

An "Islamic State" fighter from the US has already been deported and plans are to repatriate a German and a Danish citizen later on Monday. Ankara is also preparing to return scores of other Europeans.

Turkish soldiers detain men who came from Syria
Image: Getty Images/AFPB. Kilic

Turkey began returning captured militants from the extremist "Islamic State" (IS) group to the countries they come from on Monday. 

The spokesperson for the Interior Ministry, Ismail Catakli, said on Monday that a US national had been deported and a German and a Danish national would be returned later in the day. The two are being held in deportation centers while legal proceedings are under way.

Catakli said seven other German nationals would be returned on November 14.

"One American foreign terrorist fighter whose proceedings are completed has been deported, Catakli was quoted as saying by state-run Anadolu news agency.

"Travel plans for seven foreign terrorist fighters of German origin at deportation centers have been completed; they will be deported on November 14," he added.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed on Monday that Turkey would be sending up to seven IS fighters along with two children.

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Ankara is also preparing to deport foreign fighters from France, Ireland and the Netherlands, among other countries, Catakli noted. In total, over 20 jihadists are expected to be deported in the coming days, including 11 French and two Irish nationals. 

The move comes days after the Turkish interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, said his country was "not a hotel for IS members from any country." He also warned that Ankara would begin repatriation even if the prisoners had their citizenships revoked. However, it is not clear whether this will be possible. 

It also remains unclear how many jihadists will ultimately be repatriated. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was cited on Friday as saying that there are 1,201 Islamic State prisoners in Turkish prisons, while Turkey had captured 287 militants in Syria.

Stripped of citizenship

Ankara had earlier criticized European countries for being reluctant to take back their nationals who have been fighting for an IS "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq.

Several European countries have been stripping the militants of their citizenship to stop their repatriation amid fears of a political backlash, concerns about whether they can successfully be brought to trial and worries about possible extremist attacks at home.

The UK alone has revoked the citizenship of more than 100 people for allegedly joining jihadi groups abroad.

Thousands in prison

In all, Turkey wants to send up to 1,300 foreign jihadis to their homes in Europe and elsewhere. Twenty of them are reported to be German.

In addition to those imprisoned in Turkey, Syrian Kurdish forces are holding around 11,000 IS fighters in prisons in northeastern Syria, along with tens of thousands of women and children who are family members. Around one-fifth of the IS fighters imprisoned by Syrian Kurdish forces in northeast Syria are believed to be European.

According to the German Interior Ministry, more than 80 German IS members are imprisoned in Syria and Iraq.

Since Turkey began a military offensive in northeastern Syria in early October, a number of imprisoned suspected militants and their families are reported to have escaped. Ankara says it has recaptured an estimated 287 IS members, including women and children, during the offensive.

sri/rt (Reuters, AFP)

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