Paris: Turkey has sent 11 French relatives of suspected “terrorist fighters” back home, the Turkish interior ministry said Monday, the latest in Ankara’s renewed push to deport foreign jihadist insurgents.
“Eleven French citizens have been deported to their home country,” a ministry statement said.
A French judicial source confirmed that four women and their seven children had arrived early on Monday, after they were released from camps in Kurdish-held parts of northeastern Syria.
Under a 2014 accord between France and Turkey, Paris agreed to take back jihadists trying to return home from Syria via Turkey and incarcerate them at home. Two of the women returned Monday were already the subject of arrest warrants.
They were detained late Monday after appearing before a judge and being charged with “criminal terrorist association,” the judicial source said.
The other two were sought by police and were taken into in custody upon arrival at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, the source added. The children were placed with child protection personnel.
Another source close to the case said the women had escaped from a camp controlled by Kurdish forces in Syria before they were captured by Turkish police.
Ankara has sharply criticised Western countries for refusing to take back citizens who left home to join the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria and Iraq. Turkey says it has around 1,200 foreign IS members in custody.
The bulk of the foreign jihadists are being held in Syria itself, with thousands languishing in prisons and camps across the country’s northeast.
Turkey’s interior ministry said last week that 59 “foreign terrorists” have been deported to their home countries since November 11, when it began a new push to expel them.
Of those, 26 were sent to the United States and Europe. “Turkey is no one’s open-air prison or hotel,” said ministry spokesman Ismail Catakli, adding that Turkish authorities would deport all the suspects.
French secretary of state at the interior ministry Laurent Nunez said last month that around 250 French citizens are covered by the 2014 accord.
Family associations have urged that 300 French women and children still in Syrian camps be repatriated.