Trump asks Europe take back jihadists, as ISIS in last stand in Syria

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 18 February 2019, 07:33 AM
Syria's Kurds have repeatedly called for their countries of origin to take them back, but these nations have been reluctant
Syria's Kurds have repeatedly called for their countries of origin to take them back, but these nations have been reluctant

US President Donald Trump Sunday called on his European allies to take back alleged jihadists captured in Syria, as Islamic State group fighters defended the last scrap of their "caliphate". After years of fighting IS, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold hundreds of foreigners accused of fighting for the group, and well as related women and children. Syria's Kurds have repeatedly called for their countries of origin to take them back, but these nations have been reluctant. "The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial," Trump said in a tweet, using another acronym for IS.

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"The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them. The US does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go."

Earlier, Donald Trump surprised the world and his country as well when he suddenly announced that the US is pulling out its troops from Syria. "In Syria, Erdogan said he wants to knock out ISIS, whatever's left, the remnants of ISIS. And Saudi Arabia just came out and said they are going to pay for some economic development. Which is great, that means we don't have to pay. We are spread out all over the world. We are in countries most people haven't even heard about. Frankly, it's ridiculous," Trump added.

Trump's sudden decision sparked turmoil in his administration, prompting the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, as well as of Brett McGurk, the special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition.

His tweet prompted a reaction from Paris, Brussels and Berlin.

In Syria, "it is the Kurds who hold them (the French jihadists) and we have every confidence in their ability to keep them detained," French junior interior minister Laurent Nunez told the BFM news channel.

If suspected jihadists return to France, "they will all be tried, and incarcerated," he said.

Coalition member France this month opened the door to bringing back its citizens.

A French source told AFP an estimated 150 French nationals, including 90 children, could be brought back to France, but authorities have not confirmed any planned transfer.

In Belgium, justice minister Koen Geens called for a collective "European solution" to the problem of foreign fighters, urging a solution that carries the least security risks.

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"We currently have mothers and children in northern Syria, but also some fighters who are known," he told Belgian public television network VRT.

In Germany, foreign ministry sources said "the federal government is examining options to enable German citizens to leave Syria, especially in humanitarian cases".

Thousands of people have streamed out of the so-called "Baghouz pocket" in recent weeks, but hundreds of civilians are believed to still be inside.

At a collection point for new arrivals outside Baghouz on Sunday, dozens of tents and a few trucks sat empty.

First Published: Monday, February 18, 2019 07:09 AM
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