A member of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) removes an ISIS flag in the town of Tabqa, April 30, 2017. File photo: Delili Souleiman / AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Five ISIS militants, 11 women, and 30 children were handed over to Kazakh authorities by the Kurdish-led authority in northern Syria (Rojava) with the help of US mediators, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced over the weekend.
“Five terrorists, 11 women, and 30 children” holding Kazakh citizenship were handed over to their country through US mediation, the SDF media office said Saturday.
The statement identified the women and children as “prisoners” without specifying whether they were families of ISIS fighters.
“Months ago, in a meeting between the Syrian Democratic Forces, Kazakhstan Counter-terrorism Forces and the self-administration authority in northeastern Syria, an agreement over Kazakh citizens who had joined the ranks of the Daesh terrorist organization and detainees of the Syrian Democratic Forces to their governments,” the statement added, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Cooperation in counterterrorism and the method of deporting the Kazakh citizens were also discussed. The process took time due to “technical reasons”. The statement did not give details on US involvement.
Foreign ISIS fighters held in SDF custody is a major issue. The authorities in Rojava want countries to take their citizens back to be tried for their crimes in their own courts. But home countries, fearing a shortage of evidence to secure prosecutions, have been reluctant to take their citizens back.
Iraq, for its part, has taken it upon itself to place suspected ISIS members on trial, frequently sentencing them to death. Human rights organizations warn many are not being given fair trials.
Following US President Donald Trump’s announcement he intends to withdraw US troops from northern Syria imminently, SDF officials warned foreign ISIS fighters could be released from SDF custody.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the SDF is seriously considering the release of 3,200 foreign and local ISIS fighters in Syria after home countries refused to take them back.
The SDF is thought to be holding around 2,080 women and children from 44 different countries and 1,100 fighters from 31 different countries.