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Uzbekistan repatriates 92 IS-linked families from Syria

Friday, 30 April, 2021 , 11:17

Qamishli, Syria, April 30, 2021 (AFP) — Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria on Friday handed over 92 Uzbek women and children suspected of family ties to the Islamic State group to an Uzbekistan delegation for repatriation.

An Uzbek foreign affairs team was in the Kurdish-controlled city of Qamishli to retrieve them, the Kurdish administration said in a statement.

It said "24 women and 68 children from the families of the terrorist organisation Daesh", the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State (IS) group, were handed over.

Among the children were seven orphans, Kurdish official Abdel Karim Omar told AFP.

Syria's Kurds have repeatedly urged the international community to repatriate foreign nationals from crowded camps in northeast Syria holding thousands of suspected relatives of IS jihadists.

Their calls have largely fallen on deaf ears with only limited numbers, mostly children, allowed to return home so far.

But Uzbekistan, as well as Russia, are among the main countries cooperating with the Kurds to repatriate nationals.

The latest group followed 240 Uzbek women and children already returned back to the Central Asian nation, according to officials.

On April 18, Russia took back 34 orphans whose parents had been affiliated with IS.

Over 388,000 people have been killed and more than half of Syria's pre-war population have been forced from their homes since civil war broke out in 2011.

The conflict has grown increasingly complex over the years, dragging in foreign forces and sparking a proliferation of armed factions and jihadist groups.

IS jihadists declared a proto-state in 2014 across large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, but Kurdish fighters and the US-led coalition declared its defeat in March 2019.