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BEIRUT (AP) — Kurdish authorities in northern Syria have transferred eight U.S. women and children who were captured with the Islamic State group back to America, Kurdish officials said Wednesday.
Abdulkarim Omar, a senior official in the Kurdish self-rule administration, said the group includes two women and six children. He said they were returned at the request of the U.S. government and based on their own desire to return "without any pressure or coercion."
Omar didn't identify the women and children involved, and there was no immediate confirmation or comment from U.S. officials. It was not clear when they left Syria, who they were handed over to, or where in the U.S. they will be taken. It is the second such repatriation of U.S. nationals from Syria. Earlier this year, a woman and four children were returned to the U.S.
Since the Islamic State group's territorial defeat in Syria and Iraq, the issue of which authorities should prosecute IS foreign fighters and what to do with the families they left behind has become a priority. Thousands of IS members and their families are in camps and detention centers in northern Syria, including around 74,000 people who are being sheltered at al-Hol camp in Hasakeh province.
Thousands of others are caught in Iraq's judicial system, awaiting trial.
Many Western nations have refused to repatriate their nationals, citing security concerns. Others, however, have been taking back their nationals on case by case basis.
On Monday, Kurdish authorities handed over to a Norwegian envoy five orphans of IS members who were killed in Syria. Last week, Iraq handed over to Turkey 188 Turkish children of suspected IS members.
Omar said only "humanitarian cases" are currently being repatriated, adding that any fighters or women accused of working with the Islamic State will remain in detention, pending trial. Kurdish authorities, who drove the Islamic State group from its last strongholds in Syria, have called for setting up an international tribunal to prosecute hundreds of foreigners rounded up in the five-year campaign against the extremist group.
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