Iraq repatriates 100 ISIL fighters from Syria’s Kurdish forces

Syrian Democratic Forces said the armed rebels were handed over to Iraq intelligence authorities for questioning.

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa, Syria June 29, 2014
The armed group has staged a series of attacks in recent weeks targetting civilians and security forces [File: Reuters]

Iraqi authorities have repatriated 100 Iraqi fighters from the ISIL (ISIS) group who were being held in northeast Syria by Kurdish forces.

“This morning we collected 100 terrorists” held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters in Syria, General Abdul Amir al-Shammari said on Wednesday.

The fighters “have been handed over to the intelligence services for questioning”, said al-Shammari, deputy commander of Joint Operations that coordinates between Iraqi security forces and the international anti-ISIL coalition.

The Syrian Kurdish administration, which controls large swaths of northeast Syria, has at times been reluctant to communicate on issues related to ISIL fighters or their families held by Kurdish forces in prisons or camps in Syria.

In 2019, the SDF handed over about 900 Iraqis to Baghdad, most of them captured while trying to flee the last ISIL strongholds in Syria.

ISIL took a swath of land in Iraq and Syria in 2014, but in late 2017 Iraq announced “victory” after driving the group from all urban areas. By March 2019, ISIL had lost all its strongholds in Syria.

Some 1,600 Iraqis suspected of having fought for ISIL are still being held by the SDF, according to a United Nations report.

Series of attacks

Thousands of civilians are also being held in internally displaced people’s camps such as Al-Hol, which houses more than 60,000 people, half of whom are Iraqis.

Iraq has already prosecuted thousands of its nationals for membership in ISIL, a crime punishable by death under an anti-terrorism law.

Hundreds have been sentenced to death, but few executions have been carried out as the prison administration has to obtain a presidential order to put them to death.

While ISIL’s ability to operate has been restricted, its cells continue to carry out ambushes and assassinations throughout parts of east and central Syria.

The armed group has staged a series of attacks in recent weeks targeting civilians and security forces.

Last week, an attack by ISIL fighters on a village in northern Iraq led to several deaths, including of three civilians.

In November, ISIL killed five Peshmerga fighters and wounded four others in northern Iraq’s Diyala province. The same month, the armed group killed nearly a dozen civilians in Diyala.

Source: AFP, Al Jazeera