Kosovo’s interior minister said Sunday that 11 Kosovar citizens have been repatriated from Syria.
Minister Xhelal Svecla tweeted that the 11 arrived Saturday from conflict zones in Syria, without giving details on where they were taken from or how many men, women or children were in the group.
“Kosovo remains a proud and fully dedicated member of the global coalition against Daesh. We shall continue our strong fight against extremism and terrorism,” he wrote.
In the past, Kosovar authorities had said that less than 90 citizens still remained in Syria, some men as fighters but most of them women who are widows of Daesh fighters or other terrorist groups, and a few children.
The United States embassy in Pristina commended the repatriation, tweeting that “these returns demonstrate Kosovo’s willingness to take responsibility for its citizens while setting an example for others. Kosovo is a leader in the fight against terrorism & extremism.”
Two years ago, Kosovo became the first country in Europe to repatriate from Syria 110 Kosovar citizens, mostly women and children, with the assistance of the United States. Many of the adults have already been charged for terrorism-linked activities and are serving jail terms.
More than 400 Kosovars initially joined extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, but none has left during the last few years, according to Kosovo authorities.
The issue of dealing with Daesh members and their families detained in Syria – including foreign members of the terrorist group – has been controversial, with Turkey arguing that foreign-born terrorists should be repatriated to their countries of origin, while several European countries have refused, saying the terrorists have been denationalized.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, nearly 5,000 foreign fighters traveled from the EU to conflict areas in Syria and Iraq, according to estimates by the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, better known as Europol.
Turkey has long criticized European authorities for tolerating PKK terrorist activities on the continent and has pressured them to take stricter measures against the propaganda, recruitment and fundraising activities of the terrorist group.