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BREAKING NEWS

Belgium wins appeal against repatriation of Islamic State families

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium has won an appeal against a judge's order forcing it to repatriate two Belgian women convicted of being Islamic State militants and their six children from Syria, a court said on Wednesday.

A judge ruled last year that the country had to bring back Tatiana Wielandt, 26, Bouchra Abouallal, 25, and the children they had with militants, from the Al-Hol camp where they were being held in a Kurdish-dominated part of Syria.

But the Belgian government sought to make a distinction between the mothers, who were convicted last year in absentia of being members of Islamic State, and the children who officials say cannot be guilty of acts committed by their parents.

The Brussels court of appeal said that the Belgian state was not forced "to undertake any act of repatriation."

In response, the Belgian justice ministry said it would still seek to repatriate all children younger than 10 years old from Iraq and Syria, where European citizens, many of them babies, are being held in camps by U.S.-backed Kurdish militias following the defeat of Islamic State by coalition forces.

It was not immediately clear how many of the six children were under 10 in the Belgian case.

European nations are wrestling with how to handle suspected militants and their families seeking to return from combat zones, an issue made more pressing by U.S. plans to withdraw troops from Syria.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott, Editing by William Maclean)

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