Turkey deports 11 French relatives of 'terrorist' suspects

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu speaks during a news conference for foreign media correspondents in Istanbul, Turkey, in this August 21, 2019 file picture. — Courtesy photo

PARIS — Turkey has sent 11 French relatives of suspected "terrorist fighters" back home, the Turkish interior ministry said on Monday, the latest in the country's renewed push to deport foreign insurgents.

"Eleven French citizens have been deported to their home country," it said in a statement.

A judicial source in France confirmed that four women and their seven children had arrived in France early on Monday.

Under a 2014 accord between France and Turkey, Paris agreed to take back militants trying to return home from Syria via Turkey and incarcerate them at home.

Two of the women returned on Monday were already targeted by arrest warrants and will soon face a judge, while the other two were sought by police and have been placed in custody, the French source said.

Another source close to the case said the women had escaped from a camp controlled by Kurdish forces in Syria before being captured by Turkish police.

Ankara has sharply criticized Western countries for refusing to take back citizens who left home to join Daesh (the so-called IS) in Syria and Iraq.

It says it has around 1,200 foreign Daesh members in custody.

The bulk of the foreign militants are being held in Syria itself, with thousands languishing in prisons and camps across the country's northeast.

Turkey's interior ministry said last week that 59 "foreign terrorists" have been deported to their home countries since Nov. 11, when it began a new push to expel them.

Of them, 26 were sent back to the United States and Europe.

"Turkey is no one's open-air prison or hotel," said ministry spokesman Ismail Catakli, adding that Turkish authorities would deport all of the suspects. — AFP