BAGHDAD: A Russian official said Sunday that Moscow had repatriated a fresh batch of children whose mothers are being held in Iraq for belonging to Daesh.
“Twenty-seven Russian children have been repatriated from Baghdad,” a Russian Foreign Ministry official said.
Thirty other children were sent back to Moscow in late December.
The fathers of the children were killed during three years of fighting between the militants and Iraqi troops, the official said.
Daesh seized large swathes of Iraq in a lightning 2014 offensive, before the government dislodged the militants from urban centers and eventually declared victory in December 2017.
The Kremlin announced in early January that 115 Russian children aged below 10 — along with eight aged between 11 and 17 — were still in Iraq.
Iraqi law allows detainees to be held with their offspring until the age of three, but older children have to live with relatives.
In November, Kheda Saratova — an adviser to Chechnya’s authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov — estimated “around 2,000” widows and children of Russian Daesh fighters were still in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Around 100 women and children, mostly from Caucasus republics, have returned to Russia so far.
Nearly 4,500 Russian citizens had gone abroad to fight “on the side of terrorists,” Russia’s FSB domestic intelligence agency said last year.
More than 300 people, including around 100 foreign women, have been sentenced to death in Iraq for belonging to Daesh, while others have been sentenced to life in prison. Most of those convicted are Turks or originate from former republics of the Soviet Union.
Their home countries do not want them and holding trials in Syria is not an option: Now suspected foreign militants could end up facing tough justice over the border in Iraq. Both countries have suffered for years at the hands of Daesh and Iraqi courts have already meted out hefty sentences to hundreds of foreigners detained on its soil, often after lighting-quick trials.
The fate of foreign fighters in Syria has come into sharper focus since President Donald Trump’s announcement in December that the US will withdraw its troops from the war-torn country.
Governments have been grappling for weeks with the question of foreign fighters detained by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who have warned that they may not be able to guard their jails once US troops leave.