Spain repatriates two women, 13 children from ISIS camps in Syria

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Madrid has repatriated two Spanish women who were married to ISIS fighters, flying them home from extremist camps in Syria with 13 children, a governmental source said on Tuesday.

They arrived at Torrejon de Ardoz military airport near Madrid late on Monday, nearly two months after the Spanish government agreed to bring back a total of three women and 13 children.

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According to a report first published in El Mundo daily, the two women were arrested on arrival and would be brought before a judge, although there was no immediate confirmation of when that would happen.

Media reports said the two women had returned with their nine children and four others who were said to be orphaned.

Over the past decade, thousands of extremists in Europe travelled to Syria to become fighters with ISIS, often taking their wives and children to live in the “caliphate” it set up in territory seized in Iraq and Syria.

Since the so-called “caliphate” fell in 2019, the return of family members of fighters who were either captured or killed has been a thorny issue for European countries.

One of the women who returned is reportedly married to an ISIS fighter who is currently jailed in Syria, while the other is widowed.

The women will face charges of cooperating with a terror organization for allegedly helping ISIS. If convicted, they face up to five years behind bars.

Spain had in November agreed to repatriate three women, but the third woman – whom El Mundo said was a teacher from Ceuta, one of Spain’s two enclaves in North Africa – could not be located, the paper said.

The women had been held in various detention camps in Syria since 2019.

They have claimed they were tricked by their husbands into going to Syria and did not participate in any extremist activities, El Pais newspaper reported in November.

Spain also agreed to repatriate a Moroccan woman who was married to a Spanish fighter who died, along with her three children, but the family fled a detention camp near Iraq in 2020 and their whereabouts are unknown.

Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands have also repatriated relatives of extremist fighters.

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