A Kurdish-led faction that has played a key role in fighting Islamic State in Syria has welcomed a call by US President Donald Trump for Europe to take in hundreds of Islamic State fighters captured in the war-torn country.
Hundreds of fighters from dozens of countries are in the custody of
the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a militia allied with a US-led
military coalition now fighting to dislodge Islamic State from
its last bastion in eastern Syria.
"We consider the US president's remark positive," Abdel-Karim Omar,
an SDF foreign relations official, told dpa on Sunday.
"As we faced terrorism and Daesh [Islamic State] in coordination
with the international alliance, the issue of foreign jihadists,
their children and women should also be handled in coordination with
the international community. It is a burden which we cannot
undertake on our own," he added.
On Saturday, Trump threatened that the US would be forced to release
foreign jihadists captured in Syria if their home countries did not
"The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other
European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured
in Syria and put them on trial," he wrote in a flurry of tweets.
"The US does not want to watch as these ISIS [Islamic State] fighters
permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go," he said.
The German government responded to the comments on Sunday by saying
that, while it was aware of German citizens in captivity in northern
Syria, it was unable to take responsibility for them due to the
shuttering of the German embassy in Damascus.
The Foreign Ministry said it was, however, examining possible options
to enable German citizens to leave Syria, especially in cases with
Danish politicians also reacted coolly to Trump's call to action.
"These are some of the most dangerous people on earth, and we should
not have them back," said Michael Aastrup Jensen, foreign affairs
spokesman for Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen's centre-right
"The fact that we are in this jam is Trump's fault since he chose to
pull the US forces out of Syria before stability was created," he
added, according to news agency Ritzau.
The SDF foreign relations official did not give specific figures
about the number of Islamic State foreign fighters in SDF hands, but
said their numbers were "in the hundreds."
A spokeswoman for the German Interior Ministry said that since 2013
around 1,050 people had travelled from Germany to join terrorist
groups Syria and Iraq. Around a third of these people had already
returned to Germany, she said.
About 270 women and children from Germany or children of German
parents born there are still in region, and 75 per cent of the
children are under the age of three, according to the spokeswoman.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly warned against abandoning
Kurdish forces in Syria, writing in a column for the Le Parisien
newspaper that it was Europe's "duty" to help the SDF after the
withdrawal of US troops.
Trump surprised allies when he announced the withdrawal of 2,000 US
troops from Syria in December, saying the mission of defeating
Islamic State had been achieved.
His decision drew criticism from SDF officials, who warned that the
pull-out would lead to Islamic State's resurgence.
Apparently referring to US-allied Syrian Kurdish insurgents, Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad said in Damascus on Sunday: "We tell the
groups, which serve as agents to the Americans: The Americans will
not protect you, and you will be a tool for bargaining in their
hands." He did not name any groups.
"Only the Syrian Arab Army can defend you," al-Assad added, according
to the state news agency SANA.
In recent months, al-Assad's forces, supported by Russia, have
regained a lot of territory in different parts of the country from
West-backed rebels and Islamist militants.
Al-Assad on Sunday accused unnamed countries of hampering the home
return of Syrian refugees, describing their alleged actions as "an
attempt by the states, which support terrorism, to condemn the Syrian
Syria's crisis began in March 2011 with peaceful anti-government
demonstrations that were brutally quelled by al-Assad's forces.
The conflict soon spiralled into a multi-sided civil war that has
claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced about half
of Syria's pre-war population of 22 million.
,We consider the US president's remark positive,, Abdel-Karim Omar, an SDF foreign relations official, told dpa on Sunday