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Kazakhstan Says 47 Of Its Citizens Evacuated From Syria


Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev (file photo)

Kazakhstan says dozens of its citizens, including children, have been evacuated from Syria after being held "hostage" in the country.

Kazakhstan's security services say that hundreds of Kazakhs have joined up with militant groups in Syria since 2011.

"On January 6 this year... 47 citizens of Kazakhstan, including 30 children, were evacuated from Syria," Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said on January 9.

"They were deceived into going to this country in crisis where they were held hostage by terrorists," Nazarbaev said.

"We will continue to work on the return of children who [were taken to] a combat zone against their will," he added, without providing details about what he called a "special humanitarian operation" initiated by himself.

In 2014, Kazakh authorities blocked media outlets that shared footage of an Islamic State (IS) group propaganda video showing Kazakh child soldiers training.

Kazakhstan has hosted a series of talks on Syria brokered by Iran, Russia, and Turkey since the beginning of 2017.

Thousands of people from other Central Asian countries and the Caucasus have traveled to Syria to join militant groups since civil war broke out there in 2011.

With reporting by AFP
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    RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

    RFE/RL's Radio Azattyq has been an important source of information for people in Kazakhstan for decades. In 2009, Azattyq won the prestigious 2009 Online Journalism Award for "standing in defense of citizen’s rights to seek and receive information."

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