Take back your IS detainees, US urges coalition ministers

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is pushing European countries to take their citizens back. (File pic)

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday urged members of the coalition fighting Islamic State to take jihadi detainees back to their countries and step up their funding to help restore infrastructure in Iraq and Syria, parts of which were severely damaged by conflict.

“Coalition members must take back the thousands of foreign terrorist fighters in custody, and impose accountability for the atrocities they have perpetrated,” Pompeo said at the opening of a meeting of foreign ministers from the global coalition to defeat IS.

IS has lost almost all of its territory in Iraq and Syria. Former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a US raid last month, but the militant group remains a security threat in Syria and beyond.

Some 10,000 IS detainees and tens of thousands of family members remain in camps and prisons in northeastern Syria guarded by the Syrian Kurdish allies of the United States.

Washington is pushing European countries to take their citizens back, but so far they have been reluctant to do so.

Pompeo also asked coalition members to help fill the gap in funding to restore essential services and rebuild critical infrastructure in Iraq to facilitate the return of millions of displaced Iraqis.

He added that similar help will be required in northeastern Syria.

He also said there were growing concerns about the threat of IS outside of Iraq and Syria, saying the coalition should focus on West Africa and the Sahel.