Iraq prime minister says country could take non-Iraqi ISIS detainees from Syria

Adel Abdul Mahdi offered to transfer ISIS detainees to their countries of origin

FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2018 file photo, then Prime Minister-designate Adel Abdul-Mahdi, center, arrives to the parliament building, in the heavily guarded Green Zone, in Baghdad, Iraq. Abdul-Mahdi told reporters at a press conference on Monday, Dec. 24, 2018, that his government could deploy troops inside Syria, in the latest fallout from the U.S. decision to withdraw from the war-torn country. The prime minister said his government is "considering all the options" to protect Iraq from threats across its borders. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

Iraq could help to transfer non-Iraqi ISIS detainees held by the Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday.

Iraq will either help to repatriate those citizens to their home countries or prosecute on its own those suspected of having committed crimes, he said at his weekly news conference.

"Some countries could ask Iraq to help to transfer some of her Daesh citizens to the other country, like France for example," Mr Abdul Mahdi said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. "Iraq might help, would help, helped to transfer those people to their country. It is one battle and Iraq should fulfil its duties and obligations."

Earlier this week, US-backed fighters pushing to take the last piece of ISIS territory in eastern Syria extradited 280 Iraqi militants.

"Fighters belonging to Daesh from other countries that their states, their countries refuse to receive – how should we deal with that?" Mr Abdul Mahdi asked.

"Each case we should study the names, whether they participated in terrorist acts in Iraq. Then they could be judged by Iraqi tribunals."

Iraqi security forces had received a list of names to be checked against a database in co-ordination with the judiciary, which has issued warrants against the extremists.

Earlier in the press conference, the prime minister specified that Iraq would not receive from Syria foreign fighters whose home countries refused to take them back from Iraq.

The comments came one day after Iraqi President Barham Salih said that 13 ISIS detainees who were transferred to Iraq last week from the Syrian Democratic Forces would be tried in Iraq.

The fate of foreign detainees in SDF custody has become more pressing in recent weeks as US-backed fighters planned an assault to capture the last remnants of the group's self-styled caliphate.

The militant group still poses a threat in Iraq and some western officials believe that the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, may still be hiding in the area.

"We will deal with the case because if we don't, then they can use a 600-kilometre border with Syria and infiltrate once again in Iraq. So it's a case that really concerns us, worries us and we have to deal with it," Mr Abdul Mahdi said.

Iraq declared victory against ISIS in December 2017 after removing enemy fighters from the large areas of Iraq they took in 2014.

Backed by air strikes from a US-led coalition, the SDF have trapped remnants of the terrorist group in half a square kilometre.