Syria | The United States repatriates around twenty Westerners from jihadist camps

(Washington) The United States announced Tuesday that it had repatriated 11 Americans, including five minors, from jihadist prison camps in northeast Syria, and contributed to the evacuation of around ten other Westerners.

The operation, described as “complex”, was carried out by several American agencies, the Kuwaiti authorities and Kurdish forces.

In addition to American nationals, it also allowed the repatriation of six Canadians, four Dutch and one Finn, including eight children, said the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, in a press release.

“This is the largest repatriation to date of U.S. citizens from northeast Syria,” he said.

The United States also welcomed into its territory “a nine-year-old child who is not American but who is the brother or sister of one of the repatriated American minors.”

Five years after the fall of the self-proclaimed “caliphate” by the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, tens of thousands of women and children close to jihadists are detained by Syrian Kurdish forces allied with the United States in camps in northeast Syria, including al-Hol and Roj, where violence reigns and deprivation is widespread.

Al-Hol is the largest detention camp with more than 43,000 people from 47 countries, many of whom are relatives of IS fighters.

American pressures

Despite repeated appeals from local authorities, many Western countries refuse to repatriate their citizens, settling for trickle-down returns for fear of possible terrorist acts on their soil.

“The only lasting solution (…) is for countries to repatriate, rehabilitate, reintegrate and ensure that those responsible for wrongdoing are held accountable for their actions,” recalled the American Secretary of State.

The United States has long pressured European governments to carry out such repatriations.

The identities of the repatriated Americans have not been released. According to New York Times, there is an American woman and her nine children in the group. Her Turkish husband allegedly took the family to Islamic State territory and was subsequently killed.

THE Star Tribune in Minneapolis reported last week that a man who joined ISIS but became a valuable informant was requesting the repatriation of his two sons, one of whom apparently does not have U.S. citizenship, so that they could be raised by their grandparents in Minnesota.

The State Department has not provided any information on the progress of the repatriation operation.

By the end of April, at least 160 Iraqi families, totaling around 700 people, had been repatriated to Iraq from al-Hol camp.

Iraq is one of the rare countries to regularly repatriate its nationals, a commitment welcomed by both the UN and the United States.

In April, Amnesty International accused the autonomous Kurdish authorities of engaging in “war crimes” in the centers and camps, which local authorities denied.

Kurdish-led forces have spearheaded the fight against the jihadist group IS, which has seized regions in Syria since 2014 thanks to the war in that country, which began in 2011.

Thousands of jihadists from around the world had flocked to Syria, proclaimed a new land of jihad after the start of the conflict in 2011, and had fought in the ranks of ISIS.


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