BEIRUT (Reuters) - The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Friday denied any agreement to hand over captured Iraqi Islamic State fighters or their families to Iraq.
SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel cited Iraqi officials as issuing statements in recent days saying there was a deal to hand Iraqi Islamic State fighters and their family members to Baghdad.
“(The SDF) denies the validity of these statements and clarifies that there is no such agreement with the Iraqi government,” Gabriel said in a statement tweeted by the SDF.
Iraqi officials said in February that the SDF, which is trying to take Islamic State’s last enclave in eastern Syria, had handed over 280 Iraqi and foreign detainees to its military and there was an agreement to transfer more captive jihadists.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Monday that about 2,000 Iraqis in Syria, including women and children who had fled the Islamic State enclave, were expected to be sent home within weeks under an agreement with Baghdad.
The SDF has captured thousands of Islamic State fighters during its advance across jihadist territory since 2015, culminating in its attack on the group’s last enclave in east Syria at Baghouz.
Tens of thousands of people have flooded out of Baghouz and nearby areas since the SDF began a “final assault” there last month, including large numbers of Islamic State supporters and their family members, including Iraqis.
This has created a humanitarian crisis at displacement camps designed for far smaller numbers of people.
The fate of foreigners has also caused a challenge, with the SDF accusing some countries of not doing enough to take back their own citizens.
Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Gareth Jones