Crime & Justice

Maldives repatriates Islamic State woman, her four kids from Syria

Male, Mar 11 (EFE).- The government Friday repatriated a Maldivian woman, who had allegedly fled the country to join the Islamic State extremist group, and her four children from Syria, officials said.

The unnamed woman, 33, and the children are now in a rehabilitation center.

A Home Ministry statement said the family was brought back because of danger to their lives.

“In an effort to save the lives of Maldivian families displaced in foreign lands, the government has returned the first family, a woman and her underage four children, back to the country,” the statement read.

The statement did not name the country from where the government flew them.

However, a government official, who coordinated their return and spoke to EFE on the condition of anonymity, said the family was in Syria.

The official said the government put them at a rehab center on the Himmafushi island in the Kaafu Atoll.

According to police, the woman fled the Maldives in 2013 when she was 24 “to join the civil war in foreign countries.”

The woman took her two children with her, and the other two were born in foreign, police said in a statement.

The children will go through a naturalization process after authorities verify their DNA.

Some 30 Maldivian women, including children of alleged Islamist fighters, are believed to be living in the squalid Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria after rebels forced extremists out of the territory they held in the troubled country.

According to United Nations Children Agency (Unicef), Al-Hol, the largest camp for displaced people in Syria, houses almost 62,000 residents. More than 80 percent of the population are women and children.

At least two men have returned to the Maldives from Syria. Police have brought charges against them.

Families of the trapped Maldivian refugees had petitioned the government in 2019 to bring back the women and children from Syria.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in 2019, promised to make an effort to bring them back but conceded that it would be a time-consuming process.

“There are (Maldivian) women and children in Syria. Some were taken forcefully. We must accept that. That is why we are looking at options we can explore to bring them back as soon as we can,” Solih said.

In December 2019, Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed said 173 Maldivians joined the civil war in Syria and Iraq.

He said there were 59 Maldivians in Syria. Ninety-one percent of them are women and children.

“We will bring them back… to rehabilitate them,” he said.

The Maldives has the highest number of fighters compared to the population. EFE

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