Germany repatriates more ISIS recruits from Turkey

Ankara is looking to the send foreigners who joined the terrorist group back to their homeland

TOPSHOT - Civilians evacuated from the Islamic State (IS) group's embattled holdout of Baghouz wait at a screening area held by the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, on March 5, 2019. Kurdish-led forces launched a final assault Friday on the last pocket held by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria, their spokesman said. The "operation to clear the last remaining pocket of ISIS has just started", Mustefa Bali, the spokesman of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, said in a statement using an acronym for the jihadist group. / AFP / Bulent KILIC
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Nine people with suspected connections to Islamist terrorism have arrived back in Germany after being expelled from Turkey.

On Friday two women wedded to ISIS fighters arrived in Germany as Turkey pressed on with its mission to deport foreigners with links to ISIS to their home countries.

One man, who arrived with a German-Iraqi family of seven, was arrested.

The family, who are believed to have links to the Salafist scene in Hildesheim, in Lower Saxony, arrived in Berlin on Thursday evening. After they were questioned by authorities, the 55-year-old father was detained over a series of minor, non-terrorist offences.

Earlier this week, Ankara said it would start the repatriation of ISIS runaways that are being kept in Turkey.

Turkey’s interior ministry said it would be sending 23 foreigners back to their countries in the following days.

“Countries can’t just revoke the citizenship of such ex-terrorists and expect Turkey to take care of them; this is unacceptable to us and it’s also irresponsible,” Turkish interior minister Süleyman Soylu told reporters last week. “Turkey is not a hotel for foreign terrorists.”

Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan met with US counterpart Donald Trump on Wednesday. Both countries have complained about Europe’s reluctance to take back their nationals.

Turkey says it has captured about 1,200 foreign nationals suspected of having links to ISIS.

“We will continue sending them, so if they take them or do not take them doesn’t really concern us,” Mr Erdogan said on Tuesday before leaving for the US.

European officials have insisted that ISIS suspects should be tried in Syria and Iraq.

Turkey began the process of deporting British-born ISIS recruits back to the UK on Thursday.

Later that day, a 26-year-old man was arrested at London's Heathrow Airport on suspicion of terrorism relating to activities in Syria. Officers from London's Metropolitan Police counter terrorism unit were understood to have flown to Turkey so they could escort the man back to the UK before arresting him, The Telegraph reported.

Commenting on the returnees to Britain, Andy McDonald, former head of UK National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit at the Metropolitan Police, told The National: "The UK police and security services can act in most appropriate manner if they have prior notification or clear intelligence on who is returning. If these people must return, and if we thought there would be a sudden appearance, that would be a significant concern.

“The most important thing is knowing who they are and when they might be coming back so that we can carry out the appropriate assessments to mitigate the risks.”

He said that although there is a concern among the British intelligence community about the returnees, this is not a new concern, as officials have been preparing for their return and knew they were exposed to conflict when they first arrived in Syria.

The British Home Office says that more than 900 individuals of national security concern from the UK have travelled to engage with the conflict in Syria. Of these, approximately 20 per cent have been killed whilst overseas and around 40 per cent have returned to the UK.

“Some of these people [the remaining 20 per cent] may be in the camps and I’m sure our security and intelligence agencies will have a feel for that,” Mr McDonald said.

“They will probably have varying levels of intelligence of who and how many of them are in camps, but what about the others? Are they still active in conflict areas or have they disappeared into the ether? These will be the highest risk individuals.”

The British Home office has the power to put Temporary Exclusion Orders (TEOs) on ISIS recruits to place in-country conditions on an individual prior to their return. This can include regular reporting to a police station and mandatory attendance on the Desistance and Disengagement Programme – an intensive programme of tailored interventions designed to protect both the individual and wider society.

Mr McDonald said that there is a possibility that some of these individuals may come back to the UK through some of the more well-trodden migrant routes.