At least 110 citizens of Kosovo that joined the Islamic State repatriated from Syria
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- Islamic State ISIS is an Islamic extremist terrorist organization controlling territory in Iraq...[+]
Affected Countries: syria;
Kosovo brought back 110 of its citizens from Syria on Saturday, including jihadists who had gone to fight in the country’s civil war and 74 children, the government said.
After the collapse of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return.
The population of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, is nominally 90 per cent Muslim, but largely secular in outlook.
More than 300 Kosovo citizens have travelled to Syria since 2012 and 70 men who fought alongside militant groups were killed.
“Today, in the early hours of the morning, an important and sensitive operation was organized in which the government of Kosovo with the help of the United States of America has returned 110 of its citizens from Syria,” Kosovan Justice Minister Abelard Tahiri said at a press conference.
Tahiri did not specify what role the United States had played, but a plane with a U.S. flag on its tail was seen in the cargo area of Pristina airport as the operation was ongoing.
When asked about the return of fighters to Kosovo and the separate return of a fighter to Bosnia, U.S. military spokesperson Sean Robertson said, “U.S. assets were used in support of this repatriation operation.”
“At no time did the U.S. take custody of the FTF [foreign terrorist fighter] detainees,” Robertson said. He declined to provide further details, citing security reasons.
Authorities said, among those who were returned were four fighters, 32 women and 74 children, including nine without a parent.
The four fighters were immediately arrested and the state prosecutor said indictments against them will soon follow.
After several hours at the airport, two busloads of women and children were transported under police escort to an army barracks just outside Pristina.
olice said 30 Kosovan fighters, 49 women and 8 children still remain in the conflict zones.
“We will not stop before bringing every citizen of the Republic of Kosovo back to their country and anyone that has committed any crime or was part of these terrorist organizations will face justice,” Tahiri said.
“As Kosovo, we cannot allow that our citizens be a threat to the West and to our allies.”
International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in jail.