US repatriates dozens of IS foreign fighters

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Many remain in camps in Syria under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces. (File)

Washington:

The U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday that it had brought home 27 Americans who had traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State Group when Washington again urged other nations to do the same.

A day after charges were filed against a Trinidadian father and son who joined the Islamic State in 2015, the ministry said it had filed cases in support of criminal terrorism against some of the returning Americans.

Washington has said it is a role model for other countries, particularly the UK and France, which have opposed the repatriation of perhaps hundreds of their nationals from Iraq and Syria.

“This has been our moral responsibility to the people of America and the people of the countries these terrorists have traveled to,” Deputy Attorney General John Demers said in a statement.

The 27 represent only a fraction of the hundreds of Americans and thousands of citizens of other countries who enlisted in the Islamic State, often with their families, when it launched a bloody campaign six years ago to establish its “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq .

Many remain in camps in Syria under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Demers said they returned all 27 “that we have indictments against,” suggesting there might be more as cases build against them. He did not provide details of the allegations.

Foreign fighters problem

After considering the question of whether to give up US “foreign fighters” for the Islamic State in the region or to transfer them to the US military’s Guantanamo detention center, Washington decided two years ago to preempt them To negotiate federal courts.

Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, 44, who has been described as an ISIS sniper and weapons trainer, is among those charged with “material support for a specific terrorist group”.

Texas-born Omer Kuzu, who went to Syria with his brother in 2014 at the age of 17 and worked as an IS communications specialist prior to his arrest last year, was also charged.

Some U.S. allies have refused to bring their nationals home.

London has refused to try El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, two men from Great Britain who are involved in the murders of US and British journalists and aides in an infamous Islamic state kidnapping cell called The Beatles.

Instead, Washington is now preparing the transfer to the United States for negotiation.

Washington has put pressure on repatriation and on August 31 vetoed the UN resolution put forward by Indonesia on dealing with foreign fighters because countries were not asked to withdraw their own.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised Italy for repatriating one of its citizens to stand on trial for supporting the Islamic State.

“Repatriation and prosecution of terrorists is the most effective way to prevent them from returning to the battlefield,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Terror policy

“The United States should be recognized for practicing what it preach to bring citizens back to justice,” said Seamus Hughes of the George Washington University’s Extremism Program.

But he added that the “material assistance” law applied by the US authorities has a “comparatively simpler threshold” for charges and convictions that apply in Europe.

In addition, the number of European foreign fighters is far higher than that of the Americans, which is a much greater challenge.

Some US material assistance cases have been criticized for being overzealous.

One of the earliest, Samantha Marie Elhassani, was tried in federal court in Chicago in 2018 for material aid to a specific terrorist group.

However, she claimed that she and her two children were forced to go to the Syrian war zone by her husband in 2015.

Her lawyers were able to receive a reduced charge, which the terrorist group financially supported for admitting that she had brought money to Hong Kong for her husband. But she still faces a possible 10-year prison sentence.

“For the policy of the war on terrorism, you have to somehow make you ISIS members,” said Thomas Durkin, a Chicago attorney on the Elhassani case, of some Justice Department cases.

(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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