148 Uzbeks linked to IS militants being repatriated from Syria


QAMISHLI, Syria -- Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria on Wednesday (May 29) handed over 148 Uzbek women and children linked to the "Islamic State" (IS) to Uzbek diplomats for repatriation, officials said.

More than 300 Uzbeks were scheduled to be sent home, spokesman Kamal Akef told AFP, as the Kurds seek to transfer thousands of foreign fighters trapped in camps following the defeat of IS's so-called caliphate by US-backed forces.

Hundreds of Uzbeks are believed to have joined militants fighting in Iraq and Syria including IS.

Suspected IS fighters from the country who surrendered or were caught fleeing the insurgents' last redoubt are still being held in Kurdish-run jails.

The women and children arrived in Qamishli on white buses on Wednesday, an AFP correspondent said.

From behind the vehicles' blue drapes, some women pointed their index fingers to the sky in a gesture used by Islamists.

The group, including about 90 children, will be taken by plane to Russia's air base in Syria where they will then be transported to Uzbekistan, Akef said.

A second group of Uzbek women and children will go to Uzbekistan in coming days, he said.

Kazakhstan said on May 10 that it had repatriated 231 of its nationals -- mostly children -- from Syria.

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