Kazakhstan evacuates 156 children from Syria


NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakhstan said Friday (May 10) it had evacuated 231 of its citizens, most of them children, from Syria after they travelled or were taken there to join the "Islamic State" (IS).

Thousands from Kazakhstan, other Central Asian nations and Russia's Caucasus have travelled to Syria to fight with militants since war broke out there in 2011.

The operation to repatriate 156 children and 75 adults took place between Tuesday (May 7) and Thursday (May 9), Kazakhstan's presidency said in a statement, without providing details.

The evacuation follows a similar operation in January that saw 47 Kazakhs returned to the country, some of whom were subsequently arrested for extremism-related crimes.

In the statement on Friday, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev characterised the earlier operation as a success.

"Women abandoned their radical past, found jobs, restored ties with relatives. The children went to schools and kindergartens," he said.

"The destructive, false propaganda of the terrorists" persuaded Kazakhs to travel to Syria, he said.

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