Kosovo has repatriated 110 of its citizens from Syria, including women and their children as well as militants who had gone to the war-torn Arab country to join the ranks of foreign-sponsored terrorist groups there.
“Today in the early hours of the morning an important and sensitive operation was organized in which the government of Kosovo, with the help of the United States of America, has returned 110 of its citizens who were in war zones in Syria,” Kosovan Justice Minister Abelard Tahiri said at a press conference on Saturday.
Tahiri did not elaborate on Washington’s role in the repatriation, but a plane with a US flag on its tail was seen in the cargo area of Pristina Adem Jashari International Airport as the operation was in process.
“We will not stop before bringing every citizen of the Republic of Kosovo back to their country and anyone that has committed any crime or was part of these terrorist organizations will face justice. I will say one more thing: as the government of the Republic of Kosovo, we cannot allow for our citizens to be a threat to the West and to our allies,” the justice minister noted.
After several hours at the airport, the group was transported under police escort to an army barracks just outside the capital.
Health services director Naser Ramadani said “women and children have suffered serious trauma.”
Authorities said among the returnees were four men suspected of having fought for Daesh, 32 women as well as 74 children. Nine of the children were not accompanied by a parent.
Chief prosecutor Aleksander Lumezi told reporters that the four men suspects had been immediately arrested, and charged upon arrival in Pristina with participating in a foreign conflict. He stressed that indictments against them will soon follow.
Police chief Rashit Qalaj said authorities believed that 30 Kosovar militants, 49 women and 8 children still remained in conflict zones in Syria.
Some 300 Kosovars joined terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, according to the southeastern European country’s interior ministry and around 70 have been killed while an estimated 120 have returned home. Most of the returnees have been arrested and charged with terrorism upon their arrival.
Kosovo, whose population of 1.8 million is 90 percent Muslim, is reportedly one of the European countries with a high number of militants in Iraq and Syria.