Australia won’t risk lives returning Daesh refugees from Syria

Daesh refugees have been fleeing camps, as the Daesh group is on the brink of defeat. (File/AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019
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Australia won’t risk lives returning Daesh refugees from Syria

  • An Australian Daesh group widow earlier asked to bring her children home from a Syrian refugee camp
  • PM Scott Morrison said Australians who take their families to war zones to fight with the Daesh group had to take responsibility for their actions

CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s prime minister said on Thursday he won’t put officials in danger by retrieving extremists from the Middle East after an Australian Daesh group widow asked to bring her children home from a Syrian refugee camp.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s response came after the Australian Broadcasting Corp. interviewed the woman in one of the refugee camps in northern Syria where she has lived with her toddler son and malnourished 6-month-old daughter since they fled the Syrian village of Baghouz where the Daesh group has been making its last stand.
ABC said the 24-year-old woman refused to confirm her identity and wore a veil during the interview, but it identified her Thursday as Zehra Duman.
The woman said her daughter needs hospital treatment and she wanted to bring her back to Australia.
“Nobody really cares about us here, and I understand the anger that they have toward a lot of us here,” the woman told ABC, referring to the Kurdish authorities’ treatment of tens of thousands of her fellow Daesh supporters in the camps.
“But the kids don’t need to suffer,” she added.
Morrison said Australians who take their families to war zones to fight with the Daesh movement had to take responsibility for their actions.
“The great tragedy of those who went and joined up with terrorists — to support terrorist causes through Daesh and have taken their families into warzones where they’re basically fighting against Australia — is they have placed their children in this horrendous position.” Morrison told reporters.
“I’m not going to put any Australian at risk to try to extract people from those situations,” he added.
Deakin University security expert Greg Barton said the government could no longer use the excuse of risk for failing to repatriate Australian extremists as Australia rightly did when the extremists were in territory controlled by Daesh fighters.
“Care would need to be taken bringing her back, but it’s entirely do-able,” Barton said. “We more than most countries can deal with this.”
Western countries were reluctant to bring their nationals home from the Middle East since the Daesh caliphate collapsed because most countries struggled to gather evidence to prove them guilty of an offense, Barton said.
But Australia got around that burden of evidence in 2014 when a new law made simply being inside IDaesh-held territory in Syria and Iraq a crime punishable by 10 years in prison. The onus is on Australians who visit designated Islamic State-held areas to prove they had reasonable excuses.
No one has yet been prosecuted under the law.
Barton said Morrison wouldn’t bring the family home before elections due in May because the prime minister thought that would be politically unpopular.
Morrison said any Australian citizen who returned from supporting Daesh fighters would “face the full force of Australian law.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten, whom opinion polls suggest will likely be prime minister after the May elections, said his party would work constructively with the government on repatriating Australian children from Syria without “political point-scoring.”
“We’ll work it through. Do you separate kids from their parents? Who’s going to look after them?” Shorten said to reporters.
Duman said on social media she gave up her middle-class life in the Australian city of Melbourne where she was part of a Turkish-Australian family for the battlefields of Syria in late 2014.
She had followed Daesh soldier Mahmoud Abdullatif who had left Melbourne months earlier for the Raqqa, the Daesh movement’s center in Syria.
The couple announced their wedding online in December 2014, with a photograph of her dowry that included an assault rifle.
Duman, who began calling herself Zehra Abdullatif or Umm Abdullatif, said her 23-year-old husband died five weeks after their wedding.
The former private school student became an avid online recruiter for the movement and urged other women to join her.
When asked on Twitter in early 2015 what she missed about Australia, her reply was simple and numeric: “0“


Kosovo returns families of militants from Syria

Updated 24 min 18 sec ago
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Kosovo returns families of militants from Syria

  • More than 300 Kosovo citizens, men, women and children, have traveled to Syria since 2012
  • Police said some 150 women and children, including around 60 children that were born in war zones, were captured

PRISTINA: Dozens of women and children, relatives of Kosovo militants fighting in Syria, were flown back home by plane on Saturday under heavy security.
“The planned operation for the return of some of our citizens from Syria has ended successfully,” Justice Minister Abelrad Tahiri said at the airport early on Saturday.
Details would be released later in the day, he said.
After hours at the airport, two buses with women and children were transported under police escort to army barracks just outside Pristina.
More than 300 Kosovo citizens, men, women and children, have traveled to Syria since 2012. Some 70 men who fought alongside extremist militant groups were killed.
Police said some 150 women and children, including around 60 children that were born in war zones, were captured as Daesh lost ground.
It remained unclear if all of them were returned on Friday. Neither the minister nor police gave any details if any fighters were also returned.
International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
Kosovo’s population is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but largely secular in outlook.
There have been no Islamist attacks on its soil, although more than 100 men have been jailed or indicted on charges of fighting in Syria and Iraq. Some of them were found guilty of planning attacks in Kosovo.
The government said a form of radical Islam had been imported to Kosovo by non-governmental organizations from the Middle East after the end of its 1998-99 war of secession from Serbia.