ANKARA, Turkey, Nov 11, (AP): Turkey on Monday deported citizens of the United States and Denmark who fought for the Islamic State group and made plans to expel other foreign nationals as the government began a new push to send back captured foreign fighters to their home countries, a Turkish official said.
The move comes just over a week after the Turkish interior minister said Turkey was not a “hotel” for IS fighters and criticized Western nations for their reluctance to take back citizens who had joined the ranks of the extremist militant group as it sought to establish a “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said last week that about 1,200 foreign IS fighters were in Turkish prisons and 287 members, including women and children, were recaptured during Turkey’s offensive in Syria. Several European countries, including Britain, have stripped IS fighters of their nationalities to prevent their return. A US and a Danish national were deported Monday, while a German national was scheduled to be deported later in the day, said Interior Ministry spokesman Ismail Catakli told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.
Seven other German nationals were scheduled to leave the country on Thursday, he said. Two Irish nationals, two German nationals and 11 French nationals who were captured in Syria were also to be transferred to their home countries soon, Catakli said. He did not provide further information but said the suspects were being held in Turkish deportation centers.
The US and Denmark did not immediately comment on Ankara’s announcement. Germany said it will not refuse entry to its own citizens, but added that as far as German officials know, the citizen being deported Monday was not involved with IS.
In Bosnia, government officials announced on Monday that citizens who had fought with IS could return to the country, while a Dutch court ruled on the same day that the country must attempt to bring home children whose mothers traveled to Syria to join Islamic extremist groups.
The decision came in response to a case filed by lawyers on behalf of 23 women and their 56 children who are housed in camps in northern Syria. In Denmark, the weekly newspaper Weekendavisen said the name of the Danish citizen being deported was Ahmad Salem el- Haj, who faces terror charges in Denmark. While Turkey has quietly deported IS sympathizers for years, it raised the issue more forcefully after Western nations refused to back its invasion of northeastern Syria and its offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Ankara considers terrorists linked to Kurdish insurgents fighting inside Turkey.