Turkey’s Erdogan threatens to send millions of refugees to Europe unless it backs Syria ‘safe zone’

Echoing Trump, Turkey says it will send Isis prisoners to home countries

'We will send the captured Daesh members to their countries'

Chris Riotta
New York
@chrisriotta
Saturday 02 November 2019 16:28
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A top Turkish official said Ankara will send captured Isis fighters back to their home countries while complaining about European inaction in dealing with the nearly 10,000 international prisoners currently detained in northern Syria.

Suleyman Soylu, the interior minister of Turkey, said on Saturday it was “not acceptable” for European countries to ignore the issue, adding: “It’s also irresponsible.”

“We will send the captured Daesh members to their countries,” he said, using an Arabic term to describe Isis.

An estimated 2,500 of the Isis prisoners in the region are suspected of being from European countries and other parts of the world, and are also believed to be highly dangerous. An unknown number of the prisoners escaped during Turkey’s recent invasion of northeastern Syria, following Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of the region.

Mr Trump has previously called on European nations to accept Isis prisoners who came from their countries to Syria to fight for the caliphate, saying at the White House in September: “I want the countries to take back the captured Isis fighters”.

He added: “And if they don’t take them back, we’re going to probably put them at the border, and then they’ll have to capture them again.”

The US president has also said he would refuse to house the Isis prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, a military prison in Cuba.

“They say to us, ‘Why don’t you hold them in Guantanamo Bay for 50 years and you just hold them and spend billions and billions of dollars holding them?’” Mr Trump said at a recent convention in Kentucky. “And I’m saying, ‘No, you got to take them.’”

Several of the Isis prisoners who escaped amid chaos in the region following the US troop withdrawal have since been recaptured, including two British detainees allegedly involved in the murder of US hostages.

Those prisoners were being sent to US bases in Iraq, CBS News reported, after they were taken into custody by the US military.

“Europe didn’t want to take them from us,” Mr Trump said of the pair of prisoners. “We could have given it to them, they could have trials, they could have done whatever they wanted. But as usual, it’s not reciprocal.”

Experts say determining which countries Isis prisoners have originally come from is difficult in the war-torn region, since there are a lack of European embassies and extradition treaties to tackle the issue.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas said dealing with the Isis prisoners “is certainly not as easy as they think in America” in a statement to reporters earlier this year, according to NPR, adding: “German citizens have the right to return, but we have little ability in Syria at present to check whether German citizens are actually affected.”

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While Mr Trump has largely focused on the foreign Isis prisoners being from European countries, reports indicate there could be a number of those detainees who are from the US as well. During a visit to one of the prisons in Syria, CBS News spoke with two detainees who claimed to be US citizens.

Reuters contributed to this report

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