ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Thursday handed over to Iraq over 150 Iraqi and foreign fighters of the Islamic State, Reuters said in a report, quoting two Iraqi military sources.
This constitutes the first batch of several under an agreement to transfer a total of 502 fighters to Iraq.
A military colonel stationed at the Syrian border said most of the fighters are Iraqi, adding: “But we have a few foreigners.”
The Mayor of the Iraqi border town of al-Qaim, Ahmed al-Mahallawi, added to that, saying even some of the fighters’ families had been transferred.
“Early this morning, 10 trucks loaded with Da’esh [ISIS] fighters and their families were handed over by SDF forces to the Iraqi army,” Mahallawi explained.
He added that the convoy is under “maximum security protection” and is headed to two military bases in Anbar province.
This comes at a time when the SDF are preparing for an attack on the last pocket the terrorist organization hold in eastern Syria. All remaining civilians are due to be vacated on Thursday to make way for the attack, the Kurdish-led SDF had previously said.
Some senior Syrian Kurdish officials say the number of captured Islamic State fighters has surpassed 1,500 after the recent offensive in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province.
Earlier this month, the United States called on countries to bring home thousands of Islamic State members which the SDF captured in Syria. So far, European states have been reluctant to bring back Islamic State fighters or women accused of membership in the extremist group and their children who are stuck in Syria.
Many EU countries fear that due to the lack of evidence, Islamic State supporters could be quickly released once they appear in court after returning home.
The United Kingdom has refused to take back their citizens who joined the Islamic State and has reportedly stripped them of their citizenships. France, meanwhile, has said Paris would prosecute Islamic State members if Syrian Kurds deport them.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi on Tuesday said his country was monitoring the situation on the border with Syria amid fears that runaway militants could flow across the border.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany