Turkey deports IS fighters to twist Europe's arm to take them back
Turkey has made good it's threat to deport captive foreign Islamic State (IS) fighters to home countries, a policy aiming to put pressure on reluctant European nations to finally take them back amid a risk of diplomatic fallout, analysts said.
Share It :
Turkey on Monday deported an American and a Danish national, private Demiroren new agency reported.
Turkey will also soon deport seven Germans, Ismail Catakli, a spokesman for the interior ministry was quoted as saying by semi-official Anadolu news agency.
According to Turkish news channels, the American jihadist has been reportedly deported to Greece through a border gate where he first entered Turkey. He is waiting at the no man's land between the two countries as Greece has denied him entry.
The Danish militant is reportedly sent aboard a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Copenhagen under heavy security measures.
"Travel plans for seven foreign terrorist fighters of German origin at deportation centers have been completed; they will be expelled on Thursday," Catakli pointed out, adding that two Irish nationals, two more German nationals and 11 French would also be deported soon.
Last Friday, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu warned that Ankara would start sending back IS militants to their home countries on Monday even if their citizenships have been revoked amid a row on this issue with European Union (EU) countries reluctant to accept them.
According to public broadcaster TRT Haber, Turkey aims to repatriate some 2,500 fighters, the vast majority of whom will be sent to EU members, pointing out that currently at 12 deportation centers across the country there were 813 people "detained for jihadism."
It is still unclear how Turkey's policy will work, as many countries request passengers lists for commercial flights before a plane is allowed to enter an airspace.
Experts said that the Turkey's intransigent attitude stems from its frustration from the lack of European initiative and cooperation with Ankara.
"Turkey is exposing European hypocrisy on the subject of foreign fighters by engaging into concrete action," political analyst and journalist Serkan Demirtas told Xinhua.
He pointed out that Turkey had been accused by its western allies of not doing enough against the jihadist organization. However now, he said "Turkey is saying -- look, I am fighting against this terrorist organization and sending fighters back to you."
Demirtas also remarked that these first deportations were coinciding with a meeting planned for Thursday in Washington of 30 nations fighting IS, a French-initiated reunion as the U.S. pulls troops from Syria.
"With this meeting in mind, the beginning of the foreign fighters deportations is a Turkish counter-offensive against western criticism of failing to act against the IS, to dismiss this narrative," he added.
The U.S.-led coalition's meeting will take place a day after a tete-a-tete in the White House between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two are expected to reduce tensions between the NATO allies stemming from differences over Syria.
Many European countries, worried about the danger posed by radicalized and battle-hardened returnees, are reluctant to allow the return of IS fighters or their wives and children.
Western states are also concerned that much of the evidence against the fighters will not be usable in court, remarked Erol Bural, a specialist on terrorism from the 21st Century Institute, an Ankara-based think tank.
"They want the terrorists prosecuted in Iraq or Syria, but how could this be possible for example in Syria, a state which has no sovereignty in parts of the country. This is a grey legal area and a waste of time that would put Turkey at risk of new attacks," he told Xinhua.
The Turkish Army and pro-Turkish Syrian Rebels launched in early October an operation into northeastern Syria and rebels secured a stretch of territory between the border towns Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.
Ankara wants to push the Syrian-Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia away from the border but says it is fighting IS as well.
To prevent them returning, Britain stripped more than 100 people of citizenship for allegedly joining jihadist groups abroad.
But Turkey, which has lost around 300 of its citizens to IS attacks in recent years, has not accepted this method. Soylu lashed out at EU countries, warning that "Turkey is not a hotel for jihadists."
"We are not ok to take this burden on our own. Turkey has been an active member of the international coalition against Daesh (IS) and opened its Incirlik air base for this purpose," an official Turkish source told Xinhua on the condition of anonymity.
"For months we have waited for Western countries to find a common ground and to act on this matter, but there has been no progress, so now it's the time to act," said this source.
It is not immediately clear how many fighters Turkey intends to deport, with President Erdogan saying earlier that there are 1,200 IS militants held in his country's prisons.
Some 287 jihadists were also reportedly captured during the recent incursion into Syria.