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Turkey refuses to take back 'American IS fighter' stuck in no man's land

The suspected militant is now trapped in the zone between Turkish and Greek borders
The alleged US citizen and IS member, who was deported by Turkish officials and rejected by Greek police, standing in a no man's land at the border between Turkey and Greece near Pazarkule (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Istanbul

A suspected Islamic State (IS) group fighter has been stuck in no man's land between the Turkish and Greek border for a second day, sources told Middle East Eye.

Turkish authorities on Monday deported the individual - a US citizen whose name has not been revealed by the Turkish and Greek governments - to Greece through a land border entrance in the Turkish city of Edirne.

However, Greek authorities did not grant entrance for the suspected militant, citing insufficient documentation, and returned him to the buffer zone. Some reports by Greek media claimed that he was taken back to Turkey.

Contradicting media reports, a Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to government protocol, said that the individual was still in the zone.

“We have no intention to take him back,” the official said.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in televised remarks on Tuesday that Turkey does not care whether or not IS members get trapped in buffer zones.

“We will continue to send them,” he said.

Erdogan also called on the European Union to revise their stance towards Turkey, in response to the union's draft plans to sanction Ankara over its drillings in the eastern Mediterranean. 

“We at the moment hold so many Daesh [IS] members in prison and at the same time control them in Syria. [Turkish gates] will open and these members will be sent to you. Then you can take care of your own problem,” he said.

Another Turkish source with direct knowledge of the case told MEE that Turkey was forced to deport the suspected IS fighter to Greece.

“A lot of people are asking why we deported a US citizen to Greece. It is because the US prevented his deportation to American soil,” the source said.

The source pointed out that individuals who are denied deportation to their country of origin have various rights.

“Legally speaking, he has a choice, to choose a second destination and a means of transportation. He chose Greece through the land entrance,” the source said.

It is not clear how long Turkey intends to hold the individual in the zone.

However the source said that the only option might be further discussions with the US authorities to find a way forward.

“If the US government wants to take him, we can provide him a passage, so he could fly off,” the source said.

The US embassy in Ankara said that due to legal limitations they could not confirm or deny that the said individual was a US citizen.

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