Call for repatriation of Tunisian children of Daesh militants

Women and children fleeing from the last Daesh group's tiny pocket in Syria sit in the back of a truck near Baghuz, eastern Syria, on Feb. 11, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 February 2019
0

Call for repatriation of Tunisian children of Daesh militants

  • HRW said officials in Tunisia have been helping to repatriate Tunisian children of Daesh camps in Syria, Iraq and Libya
  • Their return has been a cause of concern in Tunisia

TUNIS: Officials in Tunisia have been “dragging their feet” on efforts to repatriate Tunisian children of Daesh group members from camps in Syria, Iraq and Libya, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

The rights group, quoting Tunisia’s Ministry of Women and Children, said about 200 children and 100 women claiming Tunisian nationality were being held in “squalid” camps abroad.

Many of the children are six-year-olds or younger, the rights groups said, adding that most were being held with their mothers while at least six were orphans.

Around 2,000 children and 1,000 women of 46 nationalities are being detained in prisons in Iraq and Libya and three camps in northeast Syria for ties to Daesh, HRW said, and Tunisia has “one of the largest contingents.”

“Tunisian officials are dragging their feet on helping bring (them) home.”

Hundreds of civilians, including Daesh-linked family members, have been fleeing a US-backed offensive against the militant group’s last holdout in eastern Syria.

HRW said it has interviewed family members of women and children detained in Libya and Syria, as well as government officials, human rights activists, lawyers, UN representatives and Western diplomats for its report.

The watchdog had also visited three camps in northeast Syria controlled by US-backed Kurdish forces and cited what is said were “rare calls and letters” to family members by mothers of some children.

“Legitimate security concerns are no license for governments to abandon young children and other nationals held without charge in squalid camps and prisons abroad,” said Letta Tayler, senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at HRW.

“Tunisian children are stuck in these camps with no education, no future, and no way out while their government seems to barely lift a finger to help them,” Tayler said.

In response Tunisia’s Foreign Ministry said it was “strongly attached to the values of human rights” and that authorities would not turn back Tunisians seeking to return home.

According to authorities in Tunis, 3,000 Tunisians have gone abroad to join militant organizations, while the UN puts the figure as high as 5,000.

Their return has been a cause of concern in Tunisia, which has been under a state of emergency following a string of Daesh-claimed attacks in 2015 and 2016.

In 2017, hundreds of Tunisians took to the streets to protest against the repatriation of Daesh-linked citizens.


Daesh militants kill 7 US-backed fighters in Syria: commanders

Updated 47 min 27 sec ago
0

Daesh militants kill 7 US-backed fighters in Syria: commanders

  • Manbij is a former Daesh stronghold that is now ruled by a military council affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces
  • Daesh has vowed to carry out revenge attacks against the SDF

BEIRUT: Daesh militants killed seven US-backed fighters in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, its military council said on Tuesday, days after the group’s “caliphate” was declared defeated.

Daesh has claimed the Manbij attack. Manbij is a former Daesh stronghold that is now ruled by a military council affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-backed Kurdish-led alliance which declared victory over Daesh in its last redoubt in eastern Syria on Saturday.
At around midnight (2200 GMT) on Monday, gunmen opened fire at fighters manning a checkpoint at the entrance to the city, killing seven, the council said.

“The caliphate’s soldiers attacked a checkpoint ... west of Manbij city last night,” said a statement published on the group’s social media channels.
Council spokesman Sherfan Darwish earlier said it could be a revenge attack by Daesh sleeper cells.
“After the victory over IS, we have entered the phase of sleeper cells,” Darwish said.
“These sleeper cells are being activated and carrying out attacks but we will foil their operations.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, said the attack was probably the work of Daesh, which would make it “the first attack of its kind” since the SDF declared the defeat of the caliphate last week.
Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman said it was also the bloodiest attack in Manbij since January 16, when 19 people, including four US service personnel, were killed in a suicide bombing claimed by Daesh.
Daesh has vowed to carry out revenge attacks against the SDF for the six-month offensive which culminated in the militants’ defeat in the village of Baghouz, close to the Iraqi border, on Saturday.
The Observatory said hundreds of SDF members had been killed in attacks believed to have been carried out by Daesh sleeper cells since August.
Manbij is also a major point of contention between the Kurds, who lead the SDF, and neighboring Turkey, which is deeply opposed to their autonomous administration in northeastern and parts of northern Syria.
The city is one of the few areas west of the Euphrates that remains under Kurdish influence after Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies overran the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in March last year.
In December, Ankara threatened to launch a new offensive to dislodge the People’s Protection Units (YPG) — the Kurdish force that forms the backbone of the SDF — from the entire length of the border.
The YPG is considered a terrorist group by Ankara because of its links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the outlawed rebel group that has fought a deadly insurgency for self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984.