Turkey begins returning Islamic State fighters, deports U.S. national

A Turkish army vehicle is driven back into Turkey after being used to conduct a joint patrol with Russian forces in Syria on Nov. 8, 2019.
(Associated Press)

A U.S. national who is a member of the militant group Islamic State has been deported home, a Turkish official said Monday, as Ankara began repatriating captured foreign militant fighters.

Turkish Interior Ministry spokesman Ismail Catakli told the state-run Anadolu Agency that a German and a Danish national would also be repatriated later Monday, while seven other German nationals would be returned Thursday.

The U.S., Germany and Denmark did not immediately comment on Ankara’s announcement.

Over the last few weeks, Turkey has criticized Western nations, including Britain and the Netherlands, for refusing to take back their nationals who had joined the militant group and vowed to send back Islamic State militants — even if their citizenship has been revoked.


Catakli did not provide further information on the Islamic State fighters being sent home but said they were held in Turkish deportation centers.

Two Irish nationals, two German nationals and 11 French nationals who were captured in Syria would also be transferred to their countries of origin soon, he added.

“This morning, a foreign terrorist fighter from the United States was deported from Turkey after the procedures at the deportation center were completed,” Anadolu quoted Catakli as saying.

Catakli stressed that Turkey is determined to return “the foreign terrorist fighters to their own countries.”

Earlier, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that Turkey is not “a hotel” for Islamic State militants and announced that the deportations would start Monday.

Turkey has been accused of enabling the influx of thousands of foreign Islamic State sympathizers into Syria over the years, and at the height of the extremist group’s self-declared caliphate, the Turkish border crossings were the main entry points for those hoping to join Islamic State in Syria.

Soylu did not provide any numbers or further details on those who would be sent back. He previously said that about 1,200 foreign Islamic State fighters were in Turkish prisons and that 287 members, including women and children, were recaptured during Turkey’s military offensive into northeastern Syria last month.

Turkey’s move comes amid its frustration with Western nations that have refused to back its invasion of northeastern Syria and its offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Ankara considers terrorists linked to Kurdish insurgents fighting in Turkey. Many countries have voiced concerns that the Turkish incursion would lead to a resurgence of Islamic State.


Several European countries, including Britain, have stripped Islamic State fighters of their citizenship to prevent their return.