France brings home 51 citizens from IS camps in Syria

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PARIS — French authorities on Tuesday repatriated 51 women and children from the former Islamic State-controlled areas of Syria, according to a statement from the national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office.

It is the largest single repatriation of women and children from camps in northeastern Syria to France since the Islamic State group’s territorial defeat in March 2019. France has seen more of its citizens leave to join ISIS than any other country in Europe.

Tuesday’s group is made up of 16 women aged 22 to 39 and 35 minors, seven of whom are arriving in France unaccompanied by adults. All but two of the women in the group are French nationals. Twelve women returned with their children, and four of the women had previously consented to the return of their children, prosecutors said.

Eight women were taken into custody for questioning and the other eight were arrested on warrants. The children were placed in the care of the Child Protection Service, affiliated with the Versailles Court.

One of the 35 minors is in police custody on suspicion of involvement in the activities of a terrorist criminal enterprise, according to prosecutors. The minor will soon turn 18, the statement said.

Many European countries have been reluctant to allow the return of women and children for fear they would turn violent against their home countries. France, which has more citizens joining ISIS in Syria than any other European country and has suffered multiple deadly attacks since 2015, has been particularly cautious.

French authorities have insisted that adults who fought with ISIS should be prosecuted in the country where they committed crimes.

In December, a 28-year-old French woman with diabetes died in a camp in Syria, leaving her 6-year-old daughter orphaned, according to the family’s lawyer, who had been requesting her return since 2019. France brings home 51 citizens from IS camps in Syria

Dustin Huang

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