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Iraq returns children of IS foreign fighters to Russia

Baghdad said it has returned more than 400 children of IS fighters back to their country of origin
Iraq said that it had returned hundreds of children from Azerbaijan, Belarus, France, Finland, Germany, Georgia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine (AFP)

Iraq has returned more than 30 Russian children whose parents left Russia to join the Islamic State group in Syria.

In a statement published on its website, the Iraqi government confirmed that it had coordinated with the Russian embassy in Baghdad to return the children back to Russia. 

"With the Russian embassy in Baghdad, the Iraqi authorities deported 33 Russian children of accused to the Russian Federation on 10/7/2019," Dr Ahmed Al-Sahaf, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry's spokesman said in a statement. 

"This process took place after taking the necessary legal measures to ensure their sponsorship and providing legal guarantees to protect their rights."

Sahaf said that the Iraqi Foreign Ministry had returned hundreds of children from Azerbaijan, Belarus, France, Finland, Germany, Georgia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine.

The return of IS members has been a point of controversy for several European countries, who have remained hesitant in taking back the foreign nationals. 

Following the downfall of the IS group in Iraq and Syria, thousands of its members have been held in detention centres run by the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces. 

The Iraqi government has previously offered to try foreign nationals who joined IS for the price of $2.5 million per prisoner – a figure pegged to the estimated cost of imprisoning an individual in the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay. 

Rights groups have previously criticised governments for abandoning their citizens and leaving them at the mercy of Iraq's judicial system where they could face the death penalty. 

German Court ruling

Last week, a court in Germany ordered the country's foreign ministry to repatriate the German wife and three children of a suspected IS fighter, a spokesperson for the court said.

The ruling came after the family sued the foreign ministry for declining a request to help the mother and her children return to Germany from Kurdish-controlled northern Syria, Reuters reported on Thursday.

The court spokesperson added that the ruling is the first of its kind to order the German government to repatriate the family members of alleged IS fighters.

Several European countries, including Belgium and France, have said they would repatriate the children of IS fighters as well.

Belgium has said it would immediately repatriate children under age 10 but would consider the repatriation of those between the ages of 11 and 18 on a case-by-case basis.

Similarly, France has said that it would take back foreign fighters and their families on a case-by-case basis. 

For its part, Britain has said it would consider taking back the children of foreign fighters if they seek asylum in a third country outside of Syria.