ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have handed over an Italian Islamic State member to the Italian government, a senior official said on Saturday.
Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF press office in northeast Syria, wrote on Twitter thatItalian national Samir Bougana – known as Abu Abdullah by the Islamic State – who the Kurdish-led forces captured after he fled the terror group, “was handed over to [the] Italian government over their request.”
The foreign Islamic State fighter was captured in August 2018 and handed over to an Italian government delegation that visited Syria’s northeast on Thursday, local media reported.
According to the Kurdish forces, Bougana was responsible for the shipment of weapons to the terror group and was also in charge of the activities of foreign fighters in Syria.
The Islamic State member was handed over to authorities following the joint signing of a document.
The Italian news agency ANSA reported that the Italian returned on Thursday.
His return was a result of cooperation between Italy and the FBI. The FBI made the initial contact for Italy, which made his return possible.
Both the United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have called on European and other countries to bring home thousands of Islamic State members which the Kurdish-led forces had captured in Syria.
However, most European states have been reluctant to bring back Islamic State fighters or women and their children who are stuck in Syria.
A Pentagon Watch Dog report in March said the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) believes western European governments worry they would encounter political opposition to the repatriation of the fighters.
Moreover, the DIA says western European countriesare concerned about their ability to secure arrest warrants and prosecute Islamic State fighters upon their return because the evidence against the militants would be classified. However, it seems the policy is slowly changing.
In recent months,delegations from Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and now Italy have visited northeast Syria to collect a small number of children, mostly orphans, who belong to Islamic State fighters.
Jo Becker, the advocacy director of the children’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, said European nations could be more active regarding the fate of children.
“Many European governments could do much more to facilitate the return of their child nationals from Iraq and Syria. Very few of these children chose ISIS,” Becker told Kurdistan 24.
“They were born under ISIS or taken there by their parents. They should not have to suffer for the actions of their parents.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany