Syria’s Kurds said they handed over a Sudanese woman accused of belonging to Islamic State and her baby to a Sudanese diplomat Thursday, while hundreds more foreigners remained in their custody.
Alleged ISIS members from dozens of foreign countries have been detained in the self-declared Democratic Federation of Northern Syria since the jihadist group’s so-called caliphate crumbled last year.
But their home countries have been overwhelmingly reluctant to repatriate them.
On Thursday, September 20, the local administration delivered a Sudanese woman and her one-month-old baby to a Sudanese diplomat in the northeastern city of Qamishli, an AFP correspondent and an official said.
The local administration “decided to hand her over to her country’s embassy” after Khartoum requested the transfer, Abdulkarim Omar, head of Foreign Relations for the DFNS’s Jazira canton said at a press conference in Qamishli.
“She was arrested on January 10, 2018, on the accusation of belonging to,” ISIS, Omar said, without providing further details.
Islamic State swept across large parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, declaring a “caliphate” in territory they held.
The U.S.-led Coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance of Kurds, Arabs and Christians have since ousted ISIS from swathes of Syria’s north and east, including from their main bastion Raqqa.
Foreign fighters a ‘heavy burden’
“Around 520 Daesh mercenaries, as well as 550 women and around 1,200 children from 44 countries” are still in custody, Omar said, stressing they were all “foreigners.”
“It’s a heavy burden that we can’t carry alone,” he said.
The fate of alleged foreign ISIS members captured in Syria remains controversial. The SDF and U.S. have urged countries to take back their citizens, citing the challenges of detaining hundreds of foreign fighters and the financial resources needed to host their wives and children.
“We are trying as much as possible … to pressure governments to carry out their duties and take their citizens back.”
Omar said the ISIS fighters “in our detention is an opportunity for the international community to put them on trial,” Reuters reported. He said that Syrians may be put on trial, but not foreigners, and that the administration does not impose the death penalty.
“We will try on the path of dialogue … to hand them over to their countries, but if our hope is cut, we will have other options,” Omar added, without elaborating.
He said Russia and Indonesia had taken back families.
Among the most infamous detainees are Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee ElSheikh, two survivors of a four-man ISIS team who carried out beheadings and were dubbed “The Beatles” because they were British.
Syria’s Kurds have also captured several alleged Islamic State members from France, and the YPG last month detained an Italian accused of being part of the jihadist group as he attempted to cross the border to Turkey.
In August, Washington said the SDF had handed over two Americans accused of supporting ISIS to U.S. authorities.
Lebanese members of ISIS have also been transferred to Beirut.
With reporting from AFP