TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s Interior Ministry said Saturday that four Albanian women and nine children, all related to Albanians who joined Islamist extremist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq, have been repatriated from a Syrian camp.
The group, which landed at the Pristina Adem Jashari Airport in neighboring Kosovo, was joined by “other Kosovar citizens leaving the hell camps,” the statement said, without disclosing the number. At least one man’s blurred face was seen in a video distributed by the ministry.
Speaking at the airport, Albanian Interior Minister Bledi Cuci thanked U.S. authorities and Lebanese Gen. Abass Ibrahim, who has played a key role in the repatriation efforts.
Kosovar Interior Minister Xhelal Zvecla did not give details on the Kosovar citizens repatriated but assured that specialized institutions would take care to “rehabilitate” and “de-radicalize” them.
Cuci said 43 Albanian women and children whose husbands and fathers joined Islamic State group and most often have been killed in fighting have been brought back in four missions since 2018. Cuci said Albania had a list of citizens still in the camps and would continue efforts to bring them back.
Kosovo has repatriated at least 121 people since 2019.
“I would like to assure Albanians that we are determined to bring back from those camps any Albanians who has remained there, every child and every woman,” said Cuci.
Hundreds of people from Albania and Kosovo joined the Islamic State and other groups fighting in Syria and Iraq in the early 2010s. Many were killed, and their widows and children are stuck in Syrian camps.
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Llazar Semini, The Associated Press