'Irresponsible' for Belgium to expect Iraq to try Belgian jihadist fighters, says US official

'Irresponsible' for Belgium to expect Iraq to try Belgian jihadist fighters, says US official
Credit: © Belga

US officials reprimanded Belgium and other European countries for their sustained refusal to repatriate their captured country nationals who travelled abroad to join the Islamic State (IS) and other terror groups, calling their stance "irresponsible."

"We feel there should be a sense of urgency to repatriate them now, while there is still time," Nathan Sales, the US Counterterrorism Coordinator said in a meeting attended by top foreign officials, including Belgium's Didier Reynders, in Washington.

Representatives of members of the Global Coalition Against ISIS met in the US capital on 14 October to discuss next steps in the fight against the terror network, following recent developments in Syria and the killing of IS' leader in a US military operation.

Sales' comments echo those of other top US officials who have already chided countries like Belgium and France for their insistence that their captured jihadist fighters should be tried by a local or international ad-hoc tribunal, for which Iraq has been cited as a possible prosecutor.

"It would be irresponsible for any country to expect Iraq to solve that problem for them," Sales said, rebuffing renewed calls by France's foreign affairs minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, that the detainees should be tried "as closely as possible to the places where they committed their crimes."

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Despite the push by US officials, and increased pressure from Turkish officials in recent days, no consensus was reached regarding the fate of tens of thousands of foreign nationals captured by Kurdish-led forces in Syria, Le Soir reports.

A military incursion launched by Turkey in the north-east of the country, which they said aimed to create a safe-zone for the reestablishing of Syrian refugees, replunged the region into chaos and led to prison breaks from IS prisons, confirming warnings from international observers ahead of Ankara's move.

Coalition members agreed to greater coordinated efforts in the fight against IS, which is said to be working to regroup despite the death of leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the end of October.

In a statement released ahead of the meeting, Belgium's ministry of foreign affairs did not address the issue of its captured terrorist fighters but said that it was "essential for the coalition to continue the fight against ISIS," and to "consolidate the gains" made in former IS-strongholds in Iraq.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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