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Uzbekistan repatriates 98 people from Syrian camps

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TASHKENT (Reuters) - Uzbekistan brought home 25 women and 73 children on Tuesday from Syria where they had been staying at camps with other families of Islamic State fighters, the Tashkent government said.

A government source said last month dozens of ethnic Uzbeks remained in the Al-Hol and Roj camps in the Kurdish-controlled part of Syria “in deplorable conditions”.

Kurdish fighters have seized much of northern and eastern Syria from Islamic State and have since held thousands of militants in prisons, while their wives and children - numbering tens of thousands - are living in camps.

UNICEF said in August eight children had died in al-Hol, where it said children from 60 countries were languishing and COVID-19 infections among camp workers had worsened conditions.

Thousands of people from the predominantly Muslim Central Asia, where Uzbekistan is the most populous nation, are believed to have joined Islamic State, with men often bringing their families along.

While many Western countries stall over returning their citizens, fearing possible attacks, Uzbekistan repatriated 220 women and children from Syria last year. There have been no recent reports on their whereabouts.

It said on Tuesday the new returnees would first enter a medical facility and then get help with jobs and accommodation.

“The necessary conditions will be created for them to return to a peaceful life and fully adapt to society,” It did not say where they would live.

Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; writing by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by Philippa Fletcher

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