Syria’s Kurds warned on Sunday that the thousands of foreign jihadists they have detained in their fight against the Islamic State group are a time-bomb the international community urgently needs to defuse.
Speaking a day after Kurdish-led forces announced the final demise of the jihadists’ physical “caliphate”, the Kurdish administration’s top foreign affairs official Abdel Karim Omar warned that its foreign captives still pose a threat.
“There are thousands of fighters, children and women and from 54 countries, not including Iraqis and Syrians, who are a serious burden and danger for us and for the international community,” Omar told.
“Numbers increased massively during the last 20 days of the Baghouz operation,” he said, referring to the village by the Euphrates where diehard jihadists made a bloody last stand.
The fate of foreign IS fighters has become a major issue as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces closed in on the once-sprawling proto-state the jihadists declared in 2014.
After a months-long assault by the US-backed SDF to flush out the last IS strongholds in the Euphrates Valley, jihadists and their families gradually gathered in Baghouz as the last rump of the “caliphate” shrank around them.
While some managed to escape, many of the foreigners stayed behind, either surrendering to the SDF or fighting to the death.