March 8, 2019 / 3:27 PM / 8 months ago

Swiss won't help bring jihadist fighters home

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland will not help bring home adult citizens who joined up with jihadist fighters in Syria and Iraq, the government said on Friday, insisting national security was paramount.

The government will not block the return of the around 20 such Swiss men, women and children in the conflict zone, but will take no active measures to repatriate the adults, the cabinet said in a statement. Only children might get help to return, it added.

“For the government, the ultimate goal is clear: Switzerland’s security and the protection of its population are top priorities,” it said, adding it would try to prevent the jihadists from slipping back into Switzerland.

Neighboring Austria said on Wednesday it would not help repatriate any citizens who fought for Islamic State and other militant groups, as countries across the West wrestle with how to deal with returning militants.

Hundreds of people are believed to have left Europe to fight for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. With the Islamist militant group down to its last shred of territory, some have asked to come home.

Switzerland’s justice minister had said last month she would prefer to have citizens who fought for Islamic State tried on the spot rather than be brought home to face criminal charges, a stance the government has now reaffirmed.

Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Peter Graff

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