Two US women with ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) and six children have been repatriated from northeast Syria at the request of the United States government, Kurdish-led authorities told Reuters news agency on Wednesday
Abdulkarim Omar, cochair of foreign relations in the Kurdish-led region, said the eight individuals were due to arrive in the US on Wednesday. Omar did not identify the women and children involved, but said they were being returned “without any pressure or coercion”.
It is the second such repatriation from Syria after a woman and four children were returned to the US earlier this year.
Those repatriated were previously among thousands of women and children being held in overflowing camps by US-backed forces who cleared ISIL’s last foothold in eastern Syria in March.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) capture of Baghouz, a town in Syria’s Deir Az Zor province, signalled the end of ISIL’s so-called caliphate. At its peak, the armed group controlled an area across Syria and Iraq roughly equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom.
Hundreds of the estimated tens of thousands of foreign fighters who travelled to the region to join ISIL are also being held by the SDF. A number of those are of European origin.
US President Donald Trump has called for European countries to take back the fighters, warning the SDF may be forced to release them should they fail to do so. Kurdish authorities have repeatedly said they cannot hold the foreigners indefinitely and cautioned that the prisoners pose a threat in the area.
Despite the warnings, European powers, including France and Britain, have consistently ruled out repatriating such individuals.
On Wednesday, Omar said foreign governments now appeared more willing to repatriate individuals, but only for “humanitarian causes”.
He told the Reuters news agency he expected more foreign women and children to be sent home from Syria in the near future.