Daesh-linked Albanian child arrives home to Italy from Syria camp

The Italian public has been avidly following he story of 11-year-old Alvin, born in Italy to Albanian parents, since it emerged last month he was living in a Kurdish-held camp in northeastern Syria. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2019

Daesh-linked Albanian child arrives home to Italy from Syria camp

  • The Italian public has been avidly following the story of 11-year-old Alvin
  • A media report aired in October showed the emotional reunion between the boy and his father in the Al-Hol camp housing thousands of family members of suspected Daesh fighter

ROME: An Albanian boy taken by his mother to join the Daesh group in Syria returned to his home in Italy on Friday, in the first such operation coordinated with Damascus.
“Little Alvin Berisha has arrived at Fiumicino (Rome) airport where he was reunited with his father and sister,” Italian police said in a statement.
The Italian public has been avidly following the story of 11-year-old Alvin, who was born in Italy to Albanian parents, since it emerged last month he was living in a Kurdish-held camp in northeastern Syria.
The Albanian boy’s mother was killed in fighting, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
A media report aired in October showed the emotional reunion between the boy and his father in the Al-Hol camp housing thousands of family members of suspected Daesh fighters.
An IFRC spokesman said on Thursday that an Albanian boy was on his way back from Al-Hol to his father in Italy.
“This started five years ago with the mother kidnapping the child, and deciding to go and fight for IS,” Tommaso Della Longa told AFP.
“We discovered through a message from Al-Hol camp that the boy was still alive.”
After years of fighting, Syria’s Kurds hold thousands of suspected foreign Daesh members in detention camps: men and women, but also some 8,000 children — more than half of whom are under the age of five.
The United Nations says hundreds of them are unaccompanied.
With the backing of Italian and Albanian authorities and after negotiations in the Syrian capital, the IFRC was handed over the Albanian child on Wednesday in the first such repatriation via Damascus.
“Our Syrian Red Crescent volunteers escorted the boy from Al-Hol to Damascus,” Della Longa said.
International powers have warned of mass Daesh breakouts from Al-Hol, as well as other Kurdish-run camps and jails, in the wake of a deadly Turkish cross-border offensive on October 9.
The Albanian boy’s return home is the first such known handover since the start of the attack, which has seen Syria’s Kurds cosy up to Damascus after years of seeking semi-autonomy.
The Kurdish authorities have repeatedly called for Western countries to repatriate their nationals linked to Daesh, but they have been largely reluctant.
Austria, Germany, France and Belgium, however, have brought a handful of orphans home, while the United States has repatriated several women and their children.
Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kosovo have repatriated dozens of women and children.


Jakarta mosques reopen as city eases virus curbs

Muslims attend Friday Prayers at the Great Mosque of Al Azhar in Jakarta, Indonesia, as government eases restrictions amid a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, June 5, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 05 June 2020

Jakarta mosques reopen as city eases virus curbs

  • Mosque capacity reduced to half, with health protocols in place
  • Jakarta remains center of the pandemic in Indonesia

JAKARTA: Mosques in Jakarta welcomed congregations for Friday prayers for the first time after an 11-week shutdown due to coronavirus curbs as the Indonesian capital began to ease control measures.

“I am grateful I can perform Friday prayers again after almost three months,” Ilham Roni, a worshipper at Cut Meutia Mosque in Central Jakarta, told Arab News.

“As a Jakarta resident, I have been complying with city regulations. Now that we can pray again, I follow the health protocols by maintaining social distance, wearing a facial mask and washing my hands (before entering the mosque).”

Mosques are opened by a caretaker 30 minutes before prayer starts and are closed 30 minutes after the conclusion of the congregational prayer.

Caretakers at Al I’thisom Mosque in South Jakarta have been preparing since Tuesday, even before Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan announced on Thursday that the city is extending its COVID-19 restrictions for the third time since measures came into force on April 10.

The capital is easing lockdown curbs in phases, starting with the reopening of places of worship on Friday, although capacity has been halved and strict health protocols put in place.

“We did not know if we would be allowed to reopen the mosque, but we kept preparing to put out markings just in case, and on Thursday we got the confirmation,” one of the mosque caretakers Sumidi, who goes only by one name, told Arab News.

He said the mosque now can only accommodate 400 worshippers out of its normal 1,000 capacity.

Caretakers have put up markings to keep a 1.2-meter distance between worshippers inside the mosque, while in its parking lot, the distance is maintained at 97 cm. Hand-washing facilities have been installed at the entrance.

The governor did not set a fixed date for the extension to end, although the most likely time frame is until the end of June as the city is in a transition mode throughout the month.

Workplaces and businesses with standalone locations can open from June 8, to be followed by non-food retailers in malls and shopping centers from June 15. Recreational parks will be allowed to reopen on June 21.

“Essentially, all activities are allowed to accommodate 50 percent of their normal capacity and by strictly maintaining social distancing measures. The movement of people has to be engineered to meet this criteria,” Baswedan said during a live press conference. “This is the golden rule during the transition phase.”

"If we see a spike in new cases during this phase, the city administration will have to enforce its authority to halt these eased restrictions. It is our ‘emergency brake’ policy,” Baswedan said.

Jakarta remains the center of the pandemic in Indonesia, although infections in the city no longer account for half or more of the national tally, as has been the case since the outbreak was confirmed in Indonesia in early March.

As of June 5, Jakarta accounts for 7,766 cases of infections out of the 29,521 in the national total, with 524 deaths out of 1,770 who have died in the country.

Baswedan said since the introduction of restrictions in mid-March, the city has seen a significant drop in infections and deaths following a peak in mid-April.

But the transition phase depends on the residents’ continued strict compliance with virus-control measures, he said.

“We will evaluate by the end of June. If all indicators are good, we can begin the second phase,” Baswedan said.

“We don’t want to go back to the way it was in the previous month.”