Three New Zealanders arrested at Turkey-Syria border

One of the detained, a woman, is accused of being a member of ISIS

HATAY, TURKEY - FEBRUARY 11: Syrian people's escape from Syrian civil war is going on. More than 10,000 Syrians have came to Turkey's Cilvegozu Border Gate at Reyhanli district of Hatay, Turkey. People come to the border gate by walking, with cars or small lorries carrying a piece of stuff. (Photo by Ahmet Bolat/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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A suspected ISIS member was one of three New Zealanders detained by border guards as they illegally crossed into Turkey from Syria, the Turkish Defence Ministry said on Monday.

The ISIS suspect, a woman, 26, and her companions were caught by Turkish officers in Reyhanli, which is across the border from Syria’s Idlib province.

The ministry said she was wanted under a “blue notice” from Interpol, which are issued to “collect additional information about a person’s identity, location or activities in relation to a crime", according to the agency’s website.

Hundreds of young women, many from western countries, were recruited by female ISIS members after the group declared its "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Since ISIS lost its territorial hold in those countries in early 2019, many have sought to return to their home countries.

While hundreds of foreign ISIS members remain jailed in Iraq or in prisons run by Kurdish forces in north-east Syria, others have gone to Idlib, the final opposition area holding out against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s forces.

Among the groups operating in the province are extremist units linked to Al Qaeda.

There are also hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been forced towards the Turkish border.

Turkey increased the deportation of ISIS suspects, many of them Europeans, to their home countries in 2019.

Almost 41,500 people from 80 countries travelled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, according to a 2018 study by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London.

These included 4,761 women and 4,640 children.

The study found at least 7,366 had returned to their home countries, including 256 women.

Researchers say 122 women came left the Americas, Australia and New Zealand to join ISIS.

New Zealand’s intelligence chief Rebecca Kitteridge told Parliament in 2015 that these included fewer than a dozen New Zealand nationals.

Ms Kitteridge said their activities in a war zone, exposure to brutality and radicalisation was “a real concern to us”.

Among the few New Zealanders to join ISIS was Mark Taylor, who became infamous for inadvertently posting his location in Syria while calling for attacks on New Zealand and Australia on social media.

Taylor was last heard of in a Kurdish jail in March 2019, having joined ISIS in Syria five years earlier.

Like many western volunteers he fled the group as it started to collapse in late 2018.