PM says Iraq to repatriate Iraqi IS fighters held in Syria

14 Février, 2019, 09:23 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
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A fighter with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) keeps position during an operation to expel hundreds of the Islamic State group (IS) jihadists from the Baghouz area in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor on February 12, 2019.

Coalition spokesperson Sean Ryan said US-backed forces were facing a fierce fightback. He used an Arabic acronym to refer to the group.

Abu Jabr al-Shaiti, a commander with the SDF, told The Times that the remnants of the group that once controlled a swathe of Iraq and Syria the size of Britain were surrendering.

"Most Daesh fighters, especially foreigners, have previous battle experiences in Chechnya and Afghanistan".

After a pause of more than a week to allow civilians out, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) declared a final push to retake the pocket of land from the extremists on Saturday, aided by the warplanes and artillery of a US-led coalition. They have been fighting back with suicide auto bombs, sniper fire and booby traps, and have used civilians as human shields, according to the SDF.

About half of them were Ukrainian or Russian women and their children, while most of the others were Syrian. The SDF is holding hundreds of foreign fighters it says are a burden on the force, but their own countries don't want them back.

During an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Tuesday, acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan met Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi but the possibility of United States troops in Iraq deploying into Syria for operations against IS "just did not come up" during their talks, Shanahan told reporters.

Abdul-Mahdi's comment came after a meeting he held Tuesday in Baghdad with acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

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The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said IS members will be interrogated by Iraqi security agencies.

Abdul-Mahdi's announcement came a week after the US called on other nations to repatriate and prosecute their citizens who traveled to Syria to fight with ISIS and who are now being held by Washington's local partners.

The Syrian Democratic Forces say they detained more than 900 foreign fighters during their US -backed campaign against IS in northeastern Syria.

As the fighting against the Islamic State's last enclave in Syria continues, forces there are saying their biggest challenge is trapped civilians. However, the official said this is making the fighting more hard as the terrorists are working to hold onto their last stronghold.

Last month, France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told French media that a handful of French jihadis had already returned home and more would follow soon after the departure of American troops. Britain refuses to take back citizens who joined ISIS and reportedly has stripped them of their citizenship. Other European countries have remained largely silent about the fate of men and women whom many see as a security threat.

More than 20,000 people have left the IS-held area and a lot of them have been moved to al-Hol camp settlement in Syria's northeastern province of Hassakeh, where human conditions are miserable and more than two dozen children have died in recent weeks.

Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad.

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