Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has admitted that the country has repatriated Islamic State members from a prison camp in Syria with the assistance of Germany.
Finland facilitated the return of two Islamic State women and six children from the al-Hol prison camp in Northern Syria where Kurdish forces have kept members of the terrorist organisation in custody.
While the Nordic nation has repatriated children in the past, the new operation is the first time adult Islamists have been brought back to the country, broadcaster YLE reports.
“I would like to thank both the officials of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and other branches of government. Cooperation with the Finnish Security Intelligence Service and child welfare authorities worked. Warm thanks also to the German Foreign Ministry,” Haavisto said on Monday.
Leaked Document Shows Finland Preparing to Fly Back Islamic State Extremists https://t.co/0RB22XtRry
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 14, 2019
The foreign minister admitted that the negotiations to retrieve the Islamic State members had been ongoing for several months, but the process had slowed due to the Chinese coronavirus outbreak.
“The coronavirus pandemic has slowed down the plans. The Kurdish government has had its own plans, but Finland has also been concerned about the use of the death penalty,” Haavisto said and added that the operation was done primarily out of concern for the children.
Centre-right MP Ben Zyskowicz criticised the government’s action, saying: “It is right to save children, but it is not right to save adults who have gone into terrorist activities on their own initiative with taxpayers’ money.”
Germany also brought back five Islamic State women in the same operation along with 18 children, of which seven are orphans, who were held at the Kurdish-run al-Hol and Roj camps. Three of the German women will be face terrorism charges. One woman is also said to have kept a Yazidi woman and two children as slaves.
Swedish Terror Expert: Do Not Allow ISIS Women to Return to Sweden https://t.co/B9oWdsYk9X
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 23, 2019
According to German media, at least 70 German Islamic State members remain in Syria along with an estimated 150 children born to parents with German citizenship.
Many European countries have largely refused to help nationals living in the al-Hol camp, though some have returned on their own as was the case with a Swedish Islamic State member earlier this month.
Swedish terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp noted the difficulty the country has in prosecuting returnees due to a lack of available evidence and has criticised Sweden’s laws for not being sufficient to deal with and prosecute returnees.