February 26, 2019 / 10:49 PM / 2 months ago

Iraq PM says country could take non-Iraqi IS detainees from Syria

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq could help transfer non-Iraqi Islamic State detainees held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi attends the opening of Baghdad International Fair, Iraq November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

Iraq will either help repatriate those citizens to their home countries, or prosecute on its own those suspected of having committed crimes, he said at his weekly news conference.

“Some countries could ask Iraq to help to transfer some of her Daesh citizens to the other country, like France for example,” Abdul Mahdi said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “Iraq might help, would help, helped to transfer those people to their country. It is one battle and Iraq should fulfil its duties and obligations.”

“Fighters belonging to Daesh from other countries that their states, their countries refuse to receive - how should we deal with that?” he asked.

“Each case we should study the names, whether they participated in terrorist acts in Iraq. Then they could be judged by Iraqi tribunals.”

Earlier in the press conference, the prime minister specified that Iraq would not receive from Syria foreign fighters whose home countries refused to take back from Iraq.

The comments came one day after Iraqi President Barham Salih said that 13 Islamic State detainees who were transferred to Iraq last week from the Syrian Democratic Forces would be tried in Iraq.

Two Iraqi military sources told Reuters on Sunday that the U.S.-backed SDF handed over 14 French and six non-Iraqi Arab Islamic detainees last week.

The fate of foreign detainees in SDF custody has become more pressing in recent weeks as U.S.-backed fighters planned an assault to capture the last remnants of the group’s self-styled caliphate.

The militant group still poses a threat in Iraq and some western officials believe that Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, may still be hiding in the area.

“We will deal with the case because if we don’t, then they can use a 600 km (372.82 miles)border with Syria and infiltrate once again in Iraq. So it’s a case that really concerns us, worries us and we have to deal with it,” Abdul Mahdi said.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad and Raya Jalabi in Erbil; Writing by Raya Jalabi; Editing by Richard Chang

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