U.S.-backed Syrian forces have handed over more than 100 women and children of Islamic State (IS) fighters to their home countries, local officials told VOA.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led military alliance, said Wednesday that Kazakhstan and Sweden were the latest countries that had agreed to take some of their citizens held in northeast Syria.
"We handed over 70 children and 32 women to representatives of the Kazakhstan government yesterday," Kamal Akif, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led administration in northeast Syria, told VOA. "Sweden took seven children on the same day."
Officials in Sweden confirmed the transfer of the children.
Thousands of IS relatives
SDF is holding more than 1,200 IS militants from nearly 50 countries, local officials said. There are also about 8,000 IS family members who have been settled in an overcrowded camp in northeast Syria, the same sources said.
The SDF declared victory over the so-called IS caliphate on March 23 after defeating the terror group in its last stronghold in eastern Syria.
But SDF officials said they could not bear the responsibility of dealing with IS captives alone and that other countries should step in by taking back their citizens, particularly those who have fought with IS.
"Our region is still unstable, so any major turmoil could offer an opportunity for these dangerous individuals to escape prison and pose yet another threat to the entire world," Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of foreign relations in the Kurdish-led region in Syria, told VOA in a previous interview.
U.S. President Donald Trump also has urged European countries to take back their citizens who had joined IS in Syria.
Countries such as France so far have been reluctant to respond. But French officials said they're considering taking in more parentless children who are now in the custody of Kurdish forces in Syria.
"We are trying our best to bring back these orphans," French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told a Monte Carlo radio station Wednesday. "We must first make sure they are indeed orphans."
She added that the French "Foreign Ministry had sent representatives [to Syria] to clearly determine these cases so that we can conduct more repatriation operations."
In March, France took back five children who had been either orphaned or separated from their parents during the war on IS in Syria, according to the AFP news organization.
Local Kurdish officials said that in April, Kosovo took back 100 Kosovar citizens who were children and wives of IS fighters.
Pressure at home
Analysts believe that many European governments have been under pressure at home to address the issue of children and women left behind by IS militants after the defeat of the terror group.
"It is something that they have to deal with sooner or later," said Sadradeen Kinno, a Syrian researcher who follows Islamist groups in the region.
"So Europeans feel that if they don't solve this problem once and for all, then they could face challenges posed by these very children in the future," he told VOA.
Source: Voice of America