Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria on Wednesday handed over 148 Uzbek women and children linked to Islamic State group to diplomats from the Central Asian country for repatriation, officials said.
In total more than 300 Uzbeks were due to be sent home, spokesperson Kamal Akef told AFP on Wednesday, May 30, as the officials in northeast Syria look to transfer away thousands of foreign jihadists trapped in camps following the defeat of the ISIS “caliphate” by U.S.-backed forces.
Hundreds of Uzbeks are believed to have joined militants fighting in Iraq and Syria including ISIS.
Suspected ISIS fighters from the country who surrendered or were caught fleeing the jihadists’ last redoubt are still being held in jails run by the autonomous administration.
The women and children on Wednesday arrived in the Kurdish town of Qamishli on large white buses, an AFP correspondent said.
From behind the vehicle’s blue drapes, some women pointed their index fingers to the sky in a gesture used by Islamists.
The group, including some 90 children, would be taken by plane to Russia’s air base in Syria, from where they would then be transported to Uzbekistan, Akef said.
A second batch of Uzbek women and children would be sent in the coming days, he said.
The Syrian Democratic Forces has urged countries to repatriate its citizens who are in detention camps in Syria, but with few exceptions many have been reluctant.
The largest repatriation effort by a European country so far saw Kosovo in April take back 110 of its nationals from Syria, mostly the wives and children of ISIS fighters.
Earlier in May Kazakhstan said it had repatriated 231 of its nationals, mostly children.
The autonomous administration in northeast Syria has called for an international court in northeast Syria to try ISIS members, but the U.S. says countries should repatriate their own citizens.
With reporting from AFP