U.S. Returns 11 American Citizens from ISIS War Camps in Syria



The Biden administration has repatriated 12 individuals from Syrian camps and detention centers, 11 of whom are American citizens and one, a 9-year-old boy, is the sibling of an American citizen. The group includes a family of 10 and two half-brothers, one of whom was adopted. This is considered the largest single repatriation from northeast Syria to date, and is part of the administration’s efforts to repatriate, rehabilitate, and reintegrate individuals and families detained in Syria, while also urging other countries to do the same.

Biden Administration Resettles U.S. Citizens from Syrian Detention Centers

The Biden administration has successfully repatriated a family of ten American citizens, along with a pair of half brothers, from detention centers and desert camps in Syria managed by a Kurdish-led militia. This move marks the first instance of the U.S. accepting a non-American national from the war zone.

Details of the Repatriation

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced that this complex repatriation involved 11 American citizens, including five minors, and a non-U.S. citizen sibling of one minor. It is the largest repatriation from northeast Syria to date. The New York Times previously reported on the family of ten, led by Brandy Salman, stranded in Syria.

Additional Repatriations

Other repatriated individuals include the sons of Abdelhamid Al-Madioum, guilty of supporting terrorism. His two sons were recently found and will reside in Minnesota as the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reports. The aftermath of the ISIS collapse has created a complex situation in northeastern Syria.

Current Situation in Syria

About 45,000 people live in the displaced persons camps, including Syrians, Iraqis, and “third-country nationals”. Most adult males are suspected of joining Islamic State. The U.S. urges other countries to repatriate their nationals and prosecute them where necessary. The same operation that repatriated the Americans also brought home citizens from Canada, the Netherlands, and Finland.

ISIS Involvement and Charges

According to the criminal complaint, Ms. Salman’s daughter Halima was charged on arrival at JFK International Airport in New York with receiving weapons training from ISIS. The U.S. has repatriated 51 American citizens since 2016 when ISIS began to lose control.

Repatriation Challenges

The repatriation process is complicated by lack of comprehensive records and mixed parentage of children. The U.S. has emphasized the importance of not separating families during the process. The recent repatriation efforts in 2022 and 2023 have seen around 8,400 people being returned to their home communities or repatriated.

Concluding Remarks from Secretary Blinken

Secretary Blinken stressed the need for countries to ensure family units remain intact. He enunciated that the only durable solution is for countries to repatriate, rehabilitate, reintegrate their nationals, and ensure accountability where appropriate.

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