The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an Arab-Kurd alliance pushing to take the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) group's last speck of territory in eastern Syria, has transferred 382 Iraqi nationals accused of fighting alongside ISIS to Iraqi authorities, a tribal leader said Monday (February 25th).
Iraqi security forces on Thursday received a first batch of 151 Iraqi ISIS members, the source, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, told Diyaruna.
The second batch was received Sunday, he said, and included 231 Iraqi nationals who had been detained by the SDF after it took control of al-Baghouz in eastern Syria.
An SDF spokesman denied the claims, AFP reported.
An Iraqi government source told AFP on Monday that Iraq had also received 14 French nationals from the SDF.
The SDF have detained "a large number" of ISIS fighters "of multiple nationalities, including more than 500 Iraqis", Iraq's security media office said in a statement.
Iraqi security forces had received a list of names to be checked against a database in co-ordination with the judiciary, which has issued warrants against extremists.
ISIS elements to be interrogated
"The terrorists who have been returned [to Iraq] are dangerous ISIS elements and include important leaders who have had arrest warrants issued against them by Iraqi courts," the tribal leader said.
Iraqi forces transferred the extremists via military trucks from an area along the Iraqi-Syrian border, north of the city of al-Qaim, to the Ein al-Assad air base in Anbar province's al-Baghdadi district, he said, noting that he witnessed the handover of the ISIS elements.
"They were then air-lifted by Iraqi helicopters from the air base to al-Muthanna camp in the capital Baghdad for interrogation," he added.
An Iraqi team comprising officials from military intelligence, counter-terrorism and other security services has started interrogating the extremists to determine the nature of the tasks they performed for ISIS, he said.
"The investigators aim to uncover these terrorists’ links with ISIS remnants and cells still active in Iraq," he said.
The handover comes as part of joint co-ordination efforts between Iraq and the SDF to try these terrorists in Iraq.
"The Iraqi army is currently negotiating with the SDF to have the families of those Iraqi ISIS elements also handed over to Iraq," the tribal official said.
He said he expected Iraqi authorities will build a camp or a special centre to house those families, which include women and children.
On Monday, President Barham Saleh said Iraqi courts will prosecute 13 French citizens captured while fighting for ISIS in Syria.
The fighters, who were turned over to Iraq by the SDF, "will be judged according to Iraqi law", Saleh told a news conference after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
"Those who have engaged in crimes against Iraq and Iraqi installations and personnel, we are definitely seeking them and seeking their trial in Iraqi courts," he said.