Iraqi forces are detaining hundreds of Islamic State families and preparing to send them all back to their home countries.
About 1,333 wives and children of ISIS fighters are being held in northern Iraq after they surrendered in late August, following the end of ISIS’ control over Tal Afar, the Associated Press reports.
According to Iraqi authorities, none of the women and children will be charged with crimes. Instead, they will likely be sent back to their home countries, namely Russia, Turkey and other Central Asian countries. Some of the foreign family members are from places as far-flung as Japan and South Korea. The families say they came from around the world because of the prospect of living in a caliphate established by ISIS.
However, the dream of a physical caliphate is now waning as the U.S.-led coalition and Kurdish-led militias batter ISIS on one end, and Syrian government troops aided by Russian airstrikes and Iranian-backed units hit ISIS on the other. The group’s territory in Syria and Iraq has dramatically shrunk over the past few months.
“We were told in Iraq that they had implemented Islam and we came here and it was true. We lived our lives as Muslims and we were very happy until the warplanes came and destroyed everything,” said Feyruza, who traveled to the region from Dagestan in Russia.
Other women interviewed who lived in Tal Afar insisted they had no idea about ISIS atrocities.
“We didn’t see any killings,” a woman named Aybenis stated. “It didn’t happen. Everything was according to the Quran and the Sunna (teachings of the Prophet Muhammad). What we saw was the implementation of Islamic rule.”
Aybenis said she hailed from Azerbaijan.
The women have no idea what has happened to their husbands. When Tal Afar fell, Kurdish forces separated the militants from the women and children.
Tal Afar was fully liberated from ISIS at the end of August.
“To Daesh criminals we say: Wherever you are we will come to liberate and you have to choose only death or surrender,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement after troops recaptured Tal Afar.
The Pentagon applauded Iraqi Security Forces for its efforts.
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