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Germany takes back four children linked to Islamic State from Syria

Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria have handed four children to Germany [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 20 August, 2019

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In a groundbreaking first, Germany has allowed children whose parents are suspected of travelling to Syria to join Islamic State to return.
The Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria on Monday handed over four children linked with the Islamic State group to Germany, the first such repatriation to the European country, an official said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday he will push for more children whose parents are suspected members of Islamic State to come to the country, Reuters reported.

"These are mostly young children ... they cannot be made responsible for the actions of their parents and we want to do something to help," he added.

Three of the four children Germany allowed to return from northern Syria are orphans.

"The autonomous region handed over four children from IS families to a delegation from Germany," said Fanar Kaeet, a foreign affairs official with the Kurdish authorities.

They included a boy and two sisters who had lost both parents, and a fatherless girl infant who was repatriated for health reasons, Kurdish authorities said. All are under 10 years old.

A spokeswoman for the German foreign ministry confirmed the handover to staff from its consulate in neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan at the Simalka border crossing.

"I can confirm that four children who were in custody in northern Syria were able to leave Syria," she said.

"The children were received on the Iraqi-Syrian border by staff of the consulate in Erbil and will be given to family members," the spokeswoman said.

"From there, the children and their family members will, we believe, travel to Germany." 

Syria's Kurds have spearheaded the US-backed fight against IS in Syria, and in March expelled the extremists from their last patch of territory in the war-torn country's far east.

As they fight remaining sleeper cells, thousands of alleged IS fighters and family members are being held in their custody.

These include hundreds of suspected foreign fighters in their jails, and thousands of their alleged family members in overcrowded camps.

1,000 Germans are believed to have travelled to Syria to join Islamic State. 

Roughly a third have returned to Germany, another third are believed to have died and the rest are believed to be in Iraq and Syria, Reuters reported.

Western countries have been largely reluctant to repatriate their nationals.

But France and Belgium have brought a handful of orphans home, while the United States last year repatriated a woman with her four children.

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kosovo have repatriated dozens of women and children.

IS overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a "caliphate" there, but offensives in both countries have seen them lose that territory.

A dozen children of alleged jihadist fighters have been repatriated from Iraq to Germany since March.

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