ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A U.S. national who is a member of the Islamic State group has been deported home, a Turkish official said Monday, as Ankara began repatriating captured foreign IS fighters.
Turkish Interior Ministry spokesman Ismail Catakli told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency that a German and a Danish national would also be repatriated later on Monday, while seven other German nationals would be returned on Nov. 14.
The U.S., Germany and Denmark did not immediately comment on Ankara’s announcement.
Turkey has over the past few weeks criticized Western nations, including Britain and the Netherlands, for refusing to take back their nationals who had joined the militant group and vowed to send back IS militants — even if their citizenship has been revoked.
Cataki did not provide further information on the IS suspects being sent home but said they were held in Turkish deportation centers.
Two Irish nationals, two German nationals and 11 French nationals who were captured in Syria would also be transferred to their countries of origin soon, he added.
“This morning, a foreign terrorist fighter from the United States was deported from Turkey after the procedures at the deportation center were completed,” Anadolu quoted Catakli as saying.
Catakli stressed that Turkey is determined to return “the foreign terrorist fighters to their own countries.”
Earlier, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that Turkey is not “a hotel” for IS militants and announced that the deportations would start as of Monday.
Turkey has been accused of enabling the influx of thousands of foreign IS sympathizers into Syria over the years and at the height of the extremist group’s “caliphate,” the Turkish border crossings were the main route for those hoping to join the IS in Syria.
Soylu did not provide any numbers or further details on those who would be sent back. He previously said about 1,200 foreign IS fighters were in Turkish prisons and 287 members, including women and children, were re-captured during Turkey’s military offensive into northeast Syria last month.
Turkey’s move comes amid Ankara’s frustration with Western nations that have refused to back its invasion of northeastern Syria and its offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Ankara considers terrorists linked to Kurdish insurgents fighting inside Turkey. Many countries have voiced concerns that the Turkish incursion would lead to a resurgence of the Islamic State group.
Several European countries, including Britain, have stripped IS fighters of their nationalities, to prevent their return.