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Russia 'repatriates' 27 Islamic State group children from Iraq

Fathers of children were killed in fighting between militants and Iraqi troops, mothers are jailed
Russian women sentenced to life in prison for joining Islamic State, some with children, in Baghdad last year (AFP/file photo)

A group of 27 Russian children whose mothers are being held in Iraq for belonging to the Islamic State (IS) group arrived home in Russia on Sunday.

The children landed at Ramenskoye airport, near Moscow, on Sunday evening, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Emergency Situations, cited by TASS agency.

"Twenty-seven Russian children have been repatriated from Baghdad," a Russian foreign ministry official said earlier, AFP reported.

Thirty other children were sent back to Moscow in late December.

The fathers of the children were killed during three years of fighting between the militants and Iraqi troops, the official said.

MEE reported in December that about 450 Turkish children were set to be returned after being imprisoned in Baghdad with their mothers or other female relatives who had been given death sentences or life imprisonment for being members of IS.

“There is no reason to prolong the aggrieved situation of those children who are in jail with their mothers,” an official Turkish source told MEE at the time.

In Iraq, some children have been prevented from returning to their hometowns in the aftermath of the struggle against IS.

On Sunday, Anna Kuznetsova, Russia's envoy for the rights of children, confirmed the report on the Russian children, according to the TASS state news agency.

She said the 27 children were aged from four to 13 and were from 10 different regions in Russia.

Russian Islamic State militants' children returned home from Iraq
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IS seized large swathes of Iraq in a lightning 2014 offensive before the government dislodged them from urban centres and eventually declared victory in December 2017.

The Kremlin announced in early January that 115 Russian children aged under 10 - along with eight aged between 11 and 17 - were still in Iraq.

Iraqi law allows detainees to be held with their offspring until the age of three, but older children have to live with relatives. 

In November, Kheda Saratova - an adviser to Chechnya's authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov - estimated "around 2,000" widows and children of Russian IS militants were still in Iraq and neighbouring Syria. 

About 100 women and children - mostly from Caucasus republics - have returned to Russia so far.

Almost 4,500 Russian citizens went abroad to fight "on the side of terrorists", Russia's FSB domestic intelligence agency said last year.

More than 300 people, including about 100 foreign women, have been sentenced to death in Iraq for belonging to IS, while others have been sentenced to life in prison.