A Kurdish official in northern Syria said Wednesday that local authorities there had transferred eight American women and children captured with other Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) suspects back to the U.S.
Abdulkarim Omar, a spokesman for the U.S.-allied regional Kurdish leadership in north and east Syria, said the group included two women and six children. He said they were returned at the request of the U.S. government and based on their own desire to return “without any pressure or coercion.”
Omar didn’t identify the women and children involved.
“Several U.S. citizens, including young children, have been safely recovered from Syria and we are assisting them with repatriation to the United States,” a U.S. State Department official told CBS News on Wednesday. The official added that the safety of U.S. citizens was the Department’s “highest priority,” and that it examined every claim of U.S. citizenship by a person in a conflict zone “on a case-by-case basis.”
The official said the U.S. government would “continue to repatriate and, when appropriate, prosecute its citizens” brought home from war zones.
The State Department was aware of reports of a “small number of U.S. citizens present in camps in northeast Syria,” the official said, noting the difficulty of handling such cases due to the lack of U.S. consular services in the country.
It is the second such repatriation from Syria. Earlier this year, an American woman and four children were returned to the U.S.
Since, the issue of which authorities should prosecute ISIS foreign fighters and what to do with the families they left behind has become a priority.
The U.S. government and President Trump personally haveto take back captured foreign fighters held by the Kurdish authorities, voluntarily repatriating them to face justice in their home countries. America’s European allies have warned that doing so won’t be easy, given that virtually no Western nations have diplomatic missions active in Syria and that identities of foreign fighters and their families may be difficult to verify.
Many ISIS volunteers renounced their nationalities and burned or handed over their passports and other documentation upon reaching the group’s now dismantled “caliphate.”