Kosovo has repatriated 11 of its citizens from camps in Syria holding Islamic State group fighters and their families.
Interior Minister Xhelal Sfecla announced on July 17 that those returned were the wives and children of Islamic State fighters who “need our help and support” to be reintegrated back into society.
“They have and deserve to have the time and space needed to adapt. Our government is helping them return to their families so that they can reintegrate into their districts,” Sfecla said, adding that anyone who committed crimes with the extremist outfit would be punished.
“By returning these people, we are exercising our responsibility not only to our citizens, but also as members of the international coalition to defeat the Islamic State," he said.
This is a second time Muslim-majority Kosovo has repatriated its citizens from Syria.
In April 2019, 110 citizens were brought back to Kosovo, mostly women and children but also four alleged fighters.
Syrian Kurdish authorities hold some 10,000 suspected Islamic State fighters in prisons, after spearheading a U.S.-backed campaign against the Islamic State that ended with the extremist group losing most of its territory in 2019.
Tens of thousands of foreign women and children with ties to the extremist group are held in camps in northeast Syria under dire conditions.
In many cases, children tied to foreign fighters and their wives are said to have been "born in the caliphate," having never lived in their homeland and been subject to extremist indoctrination.
Around 400 citizens of Kosovo traveled to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State group.
Kosovo police told RFE/RL in June that there are still an estimated 96 Kosovars in the conflict zone, of which 43 are men, nine are women, and 44 children born in Syria or Iraq to at least one Kosovar parent.
Kurdish authorities, the United States, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have called on the 60 countries from which the Islamic State fighters and their relatives came to repatriate foreign nationals.
Some countries such as Germany and the Netherlands have repatriated some citizens who fought with the jihadists.
But many countries have brought home only the wives and children living in the camps due to security concerns about bringing home radicalized former fighters.