Twelve French orphans from the families of jihadists in Syria have been handed over to a French delegation, a top Kurdish diplomat said Monday, according to france24.com.
The children, the eldest of whom was 10 years old, lived in camps in the northeast of the country, where tens of thousands of people have fled the offensive against the last bastion held by the Islamic State group (IS group or ISIS).
Kurdish officials handed over “12 orphaned French children from ISIS families to a delegation from the French Ministry” of foreign affairs at the request of the French government, said Abdelkarim Omar, the Kurdish administration’s top foreign affairs official, in a statement on Twitter.
Omar said the operation took place on Sunday in Ain Issa near the border with Turkey. Two Dutch orphans were also handed over to a government delegation from the Netherlands.
Kurdish authorities run the camps in northeastern Syria where thousands of women and children linked to foreign jihadists remain. Two American women and six children of suspected IS group members were repatriated to the United States last week.
France has so far repatriated a handful of orphans and a 3-year-old girl. According to the French foreign ministry at the Quai d’Orsay, some 450 French nationals affiliated with the IS group are currently in prison or being held in refugee camps.
After an offensive backed by the international coalition led by Washington conquered the last fiefdom held by the jihadists in eastern Syria, Kurdish and Arab members of the Syrian Democratic Forces announced the defeat of the self-proclaimed “caliphate” on March 23.
The repatriation of women and children with links to foreign jihadists has become a hot-button issue in nations such as France, with Syrian Kurds warning that the issue risks becoming a time bomb that the international community urgently needs to defuse.