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Iraq repatriates 82 children of ISIS fighters to Azerbaijan

By Khalid al-Taie

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A screen shot of a 2017 video by Al-Hadath TV shows Chechen children of ISIS fighters who were returned to their country from Iraq.

The Iraqi government has handed over to Azerbaijan 82 children of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) fighters.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has "helped repatriate 82 children to the Republic of Azerbaijan whose mothers have been sentenced to imprisonment by Iraqi courts for affiliation with ISIS", ministry spokesman Ahmed al-Sahaf said in a Wednesday (March 4th) statement.

"The handover of ISIS children is carried out by government committees that comprise representatives of security, intelligence and justice institutions, in addition to the Supreme Judicial Council," said intelligence expert Fadel Abu Ragheef.

"The repatriation of children is done through diplomatic channels and according to agreements concluded between the Iraqi government and the governments of concerned countries, which are mostly from former Soviet republics," he said.

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A woman accused of being affiliated with ISIS attends a court session in Iraq with her child. [Photo circulated online]

The number of repatriated foreign children over the past three years has now reached 828 children of different nationalities, he said.

Repatriation is ongoing

In 2019, the Iraqi authorities repatriated at least 360 foreign ISIS children to their parents' countries of origin in Turkey, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

During the fighting to liberate Iraqi cities from ISIS between 2014 and 2017, Iraqi forces detained many foreign ISIS women together with their children, Abu Ragheef said.

"These women, as well as those who were arrested after 2017, are currently being tried by Iraqi courts according to the national laws, including Penal Code No. 111 of 1969," he said.

When decisive rulings of involvement in terrorism are given against a group of terrorists, government agencies will deport their children to their countries of origin, he said. Those countries will then either hand over the children to the mother's family or put them in shelters.

Repatriation will continue until all foreign children are sent back to their countries, Abu Ragheef said. This also includes women and youth who complete their sentences in Iraq or are acquitted of the charges against them.

"Current trials also include foreign fighters in addition to more than 1,500 Iraqi ISIS elements who were handed over to the Iraqi government by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after the battle of al-Baghouz last year," he said.

No official figures are available on the number of children of foreign ISIS fighters detained in Iraq, but media reports put that number at 1,100 children as of last year.

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