BERLIN—Germany has organized the return of three women and 12 children from camps in northeastern Syria for humanitarian reasons, its foreign minister reported on Dec. 20.
Heiko Maas didn’t further identify the women or children, who were flown back to Germany on Dec. 19.
However, the German weekly Bild am Sonntag reported that all three women had left Germany in recent years to join the extremist ISIS terrorist group in Syria. The paper identified the women as Merve A., Yasmin A., and Leonora M.
Also on Dec. 20, Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office said a German citizen by the name of Leonora M. had been arrested upon her arrival at Frankfurt airport. It said she is accused of membership in the foreign terrorist group ISIS and allegedly committed crimes against humanity.
Maas said he was “very relieved” about the return of the 12 children and three of their mothers. He said the return was organized in cooperation with Finland, which brought home six children and two women.
“These are humanitarian cases, especially orphans and children with illnesses—cases in which the departure was urgently needed,” Maas said.
“This good news just before Christmas makes us confident that we will be able to organize the return of further cases as well,” he said.
Hundreds of Europeans—many of them young women—left the continent in the last couple of years to join the ISIS and fight in Syria and Iraq. Several died, others were arrested and detained by Turkish, Kurdish, or Iraqi authorities who have been eager to deport them and their children back to Europe.
European governments, however, have been reluctant to take back the often-radicalized ISIS supporters.
The women and children who just arrived in Germany were detained at the al-Hol and Roj camps in northeastern Syria, the German foreign ministry said. The camps are managed by the Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria but lack basic services and have been rife with diseases and lawlessness.
Al-Hol holds over 60,000 Syrian, Iraqi, and Western detainees, most either family members of ISIS terrorists or supporters of the group who had remained in the territories it held until the final battle in March last year.
Roj is a smaller camp with mostly Westerners—also family members of imprisoned or killed ISIS terrorists or supporters.
The Kurdish-led authorities said in November that they’ll begin releasing some of the 25,000 Syrians held in the al-Hol camp, allowing them to return home if they choose to.