NUR-SULTAN (TCA) — Kazakhstan’s interim president says 231 Kazakh citizens have been repatriated during the past week from Syria, where they were believed to have joined the Islamic State (IS) extremist group or were children of IS fighters, RFE/RL reported.
Interim President Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev said on May 10 that the repatriated Kazakhs included 156 children, mainly boys and girls under age of six, including 18 orphans.
Tokayev said they were brought from Syria between May 7 and May 9 by Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry, Kazakhstan’s Committee for National Security, and “foreign partners.”
“State bodies and nongovernmental organizations have implemented rehabilitation measures to assist the arrived citizens,” Tokayev said. “They received medical, psychological, and social assistance.”
In January, authorities in Kazakhstan said that 47 Kazakh citizens were repatriated from Syria.
Kazakh officials have said that hundreds of citizens of the Central Asian country went to Iraq and Syria to join IS fighters in recent years. Many, they say, were killed fighting as IS militants.
On April 30, neighboring Tajikistan repatriated 84 minors from Iraq, where their Tajik mothers have been imprisoned under charges of belonging to the extremist group Islamic State (IS) or are awaiting trial.
The Tajik government thanked the Kuwaiti and Iraqi foreign ministries as well as the UNICEF office in Baghdad for helping with the repatriation.
Hundreds of Tajik citizens went to Iraq and Syria to join the IS group, according to the Tajik authorities, and Dushanbe has repeatedly said it doesn’t intend to leave any Tajik children behind in the two war-torn Middle Eastern countries, fearing that they might pose security threats in the long run.