Rabat: Morocco said on Sunday it had repatriated eight of its nationals from Syria, who will be investigated for "suspected involvement in acts linked to terrorism". "The competent Moroccan authorities proceeded on 10 March to repatriate a group of eight Moroccan citizens who were in conflict zones in Syria," the interior ministry said in a statement.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which is spearheading a final offensive against the Islamic State group's last redoubt, confirmed its involvement in the transfer. The force "handed over some citizens from Morocco who used to stay in camps of northeast Syria to the Moroccan government," SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali wrote on Twitter.
Backed by an international military coalition, the SDF has arrested thousands of IS jihadists who have fled the shrinking stronghold. Many of those flooding out of IS territory are foreign fighters and their families -- including some Moroccan women, according to AFP journalists on the ground. Sunday's operation had a "humanitarian character" and allowed the Moroccans to return to their home country safely, the ministry added.
In 2015, the number of Moroccans in jihadist ranks in Iraq and Syria was estimated at more than 1,600. Those who return are arrested and receive sentences of 10 to 15 years in prison. Syria's multi-fronted war has killed more than 360,000 and displaced millions since it erupted in the wake of the government's bloody repression of street protests in 2011. The SDF wants foreign fighters and their families to be repatriated by their countries of origin.
Rabat's move was praised by the United States, which said such actions "should encourage other nations to repatriate and prosecute their citizens" who have joined IS. "Repatriating foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin is the best solution to prevent them from returning to the battlefield," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said. Washington last month said it would not allow a US-born woman who had joined IS in Syria, Hoda Muthana, back into the country and declared she was not an American citizen.
Updated Date: Mar 11, 2019 16:07:51 IST