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Iraq holds '1,300 foreign wives, children' of IS fighters

Iraqi forces ousted IS fighters from their stronghold of Tal Afar in late August. [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 September, 2017

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Iraq is holding in its custody more than 1,300 foreign wives and children of Islamic State group fighters who surrendered to Kurdish Peshmerga forces, an official said on Monday.

Iraq is holding in its custody more than 1,300 foreign wives and children of Islamic State group fighters who surrendered to Kurdish Peshmerga forces, an official said on Monday.

Iraqi forces ousted IS fighters from their stronghold of Tal Afar near Iraqi Kurdistan in late August after facing fierce resistance in the town of Al-Ayadieh.

"The Peshmerga handed over 1,333 women and children from jihadist families from the Islamic State group," said the senior official in the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC).

The women and children "surrendered to Kurdish forces" deployed north of Al-Ayadieh, said the official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

The Kurdish forces handed the women and children over to Iraqi forces but kept the men, who are all presumed to be fighters, in their custody.

The families are being held in a camp for the displaced near Mosul, some 70 kilometres east of Tal Afar, with officials counting at least 13 nationalities so far.

Most came from Turkey, while many others were from former Soviet states, such as Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Russia, Iraqi army and intelligence officers said.

Other Asians and a "very few" French and Germans were also among them. Thousands of foreigners have been fighting for the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

"We are holding the Daesh families under tight security measures and waiting for government orders on how to deal with them," Iraqi Army Colonel Ahmed al-Taie from Mosul's Nineveh operation command told Reuters.

Iraq's foreign ministry wants to negotiate the return of the women and children with the relevant embassies, a ministry official said.

"We can't keep this number in our custody for a long time," he said.

Aid workers and Iraqi authorities are worried about tensions in the camp between IS families and displaced Iraqis who have fled fighting.

Many Iraqis want revenge for the treatment they received under the extremist rule of the Islamic State group in Mosul and other areas.

IS, which captured nearly a third of Iraq in 2014 in a stunning defeat for the army, now controls just 10 percent of the country, according to the US-led international coalition against the extremists.

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