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Syria Kurds hand over 5 Belgian orphans from Daesh families — official

By AFP - Jun 14,2019 - Last updated at Jun 14,2019

In this undated photo, women of Daesh terrorists and their children in Al Hol camp, Syria (AFP photo)

BEIRUT — Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria on Thursday handed over five orphans born to families belonging to the Daesh group to the Belgian authorities, an official said.

“At the request of the Belgium government, the self-administration of north and east Syria handed over on June 13th, 2019, five orphaned Belgian children from ISIS [Daesh] families to a delegation from the Belgium ministry of foreign affairs in the town of Ain Issa,” foreign affairs official Abdulkarim Omar wrote on Twitter, using an alternative acronym for Daesh.

Belgium earlier said it would bring six orphans home from Kurdish-controlled camps in Syria after the deaths of their parents.

It was not immediately clear why only five had been handed over to the Belgian delegation.

“These are children who were born in our country and who today no longer have parents,” Belgian Finance Minister Alexander De Croo told VRT public radio.

Belgium is one of several European countries wrestling with the dilemma of what to do about citizens trapped in Syria following the defeat of the Daesh.

Some are reticent to accept captured extremist fighters, but the cases of children and non-combatant wives have proved more complicated for Western authorities.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said Belgium has a signed deal to allow returnees to transit through Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

The bulk of Daesh fighters and family members who were captured when its so-called caliphate collapsed are being held in Syria in Kurdish-run camps.

De Croo said that four of the six orphans expected to return were older than 10, but that none were suspects.

“These are children who were alone in the camps, who have no support. There’s no question of taking back parents who chose to join terrorist groups,” he said.

“These children had no choice,” he added.

According to Belgian media reports, 50 to 60 Belgian children under 18 are in the camps of Al Hol, Roj and Ain Issa in Syria.

Belgium was one of the European countries which, relative to its size, saw one of the larger contingents of extremists set off for the Syrian battlefield.

Authorities estimate that 400 adults set off for extremist-controlled areas since 2012 and 150 were still considered “active and in place” at the end of last year.

Syria’s Kurds have detained hundreds of foreigners suspected of fighting for Daesh, as well as thousands of related women and children, during the US-backed battle against Daesh in Syria.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces expelled the extremist group from its last patch of territory in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz in March, after larger than expected numbers of families emerged from the ruins.

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