The US Defense Secretary called on the UK on Thursday to bring back British citizens who joined ISIS in order to put them on trial.
“Our view is they should be repatriated and dealt with appropriately,” US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said to journalists during his first official visit to the UK. “Otherwise it’s a risk to the region. How long can they be guarded in these camps by others?”
About 900 British citizens left the country to join the so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, according to British newspaper The Times. 400 are thought to have returned and at least 10 percent have been prosecuted.
The majority of the remaining fighters are being held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-led and US-backed group based in northeast Syria.
Britain has refused to take back the extremist fighters, with the Home Office moving to revoke the UK citizenship of ISIS fighters still in Syria.
Esper said all ISIS fighters should “go back to their home countries to face justice.” The remarks echo US President Trump’s warning on August 23 that the US would release the prisoners held captive in Syria.
“We’re holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now, and Europe has to take them,” Trump said. “If Europe doesn’t take them, I’ll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came, which is Germany and France and other places.”