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Turkey says 'not Daesh hotel', vows to send back foreign Islamic State fighters

The Islamic State militant group captured swathes of land in 2014 [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 November, 2019

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Foreign Islamic State fighters captured in Syria will be sent back to their countries of origin, Turkey vowed.
The Turkish government said on Saturday it would send foreign Islamic State fighters captured in Syria back to their countries of origin, despite the unwillingness of notably Europe states to take them in.

"We are not going to keep them until the end of time," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters. "We're not a hotel for Daesh," he said, using another name for Islamic State.

He said Turkey would hold captured foreign fighters "for some time. After that we'll send them back to their countries".

Soylu said EU countries including the Netherlands and Britain had stripped some of the fighters of their nationality to prevent Ankara from sending them home.

"They found an easy solution," he said. "They say 'I took his nationality away, it's your problem now'. That's unacceptable in our view, that's totally irresponsible. What do you want me to do with your terrorist?"

Turkey last month launched an offensive in north-eastern Syria against a Kurdish militia that Ankara has branded "terrorists", but which was at the forefront in the fight against Islamic State with the backing of Western governments.

As part of the offensive, Turkey took Islamic State members into custody who had previously been held by the Kurds.

Others are said to have escaped from Syrian prisons in the chaos of the offensive.

Kurdish authorities said 800 IS family members being held in a camp at Ain Al-Issa in northern Syria had fled due to Turkish bombing. 

Turkey denied that its offensive had allowed IS prisoners to break out of detention camps, charging Kurdish militants had instead deliberately "emptied" a prison. 

The sentiments were echoed by Trump who later suggested Kurdish fighters may be releasing imprisoned Islamic State group prisoners in a bid to keep American troops in northeastern Syria.

US President Donald Trump in a series of tweets last month said he said "some" European countries, which he did not name, "are now willing, for the first time, to take the (Islamic State group) Fighters that came from their nations."

"This is good news, but should have been done after WE captured them," he said. "Anyway, big progress being made!!!!"

The Turkish government regularly calls on European countries to repatriate their nationals belonging to Islamic State, but many governments are dragging their feet, fearing a public backlash and security problems.

 

Human Rights Watch warned European countries last month against transferring foreign jihadist suspects from prisons in war-torn northeastern Syria to Iraq, after reports that hundreds of Islamic State group-affiliated family members escaped the camp.

The New York-based watchdog expressed concern that some countries with significant contingents of prisoners in Syria were seeking to move them across the border amid a controversial Turkish military operation in the country.

"Given Iraq's record of unfair trials, European states should not promote efforts to have their nationals transferred there for prosecution," HRW's Iraq researcher Belkis Wille said.

Any government supporting such a move "without taking measures to remove the risk of torture, sham trials and execution risks contributing to serious abuses", she said.

Wille said her organisation's monitoring showed that trials in Iraq were "inherently unfair and replete with due process violations".

She urged the UK, Denmark, France, Germany and other countries to seek their nationals' repatriation instead.

Turkey's announcement on Saturday came days after Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who led IS since 2014 and was the world's most wanted man, died in a US special forces raid in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib on Sunday.

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