PARIS (Reuters) – France has repatriated 16 female terrorism suspects and 35 children from refugee camps in the north east of Syria, the country’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said on Tuesday.
The women, aged between 22 and 39, had been handed over to judicial authorities, the prosecutor said.
Fourteen of the women were French citizens and the other two were mothers of French citizen children. Most of the children were repatriated with their mothers, but seven had been found in the camps on their own.
During its more than decade-long civil war, Syria became a harbour for the Islamic State jihadist group, which controlled much of Syria and neighbouring Iraq from 2014-2017 and recruited Europeans as fighters and as wives.
European countries have been struggling for years to decide what to do with scores of their citizens who went to Syria during the conflict, including women who ended up in camps for displaced people after the militants were defeated in 2017.
The Syrian war began with peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, and developed into a multi-sided, protracted conflict that sucked in world powers.
The frontlines have been mostly frozen for years but violence is continuing and millions remain displaced both within Syria’s borders and in neighbouring states. The U.N. human rights office said last month that 306,887 civilians had been killed in Syria during the conflict.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Ed Osmond, Peter Graff)