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Austria tells militant fighters looking to return: You're on your own

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Austria tells militant fighters looking to return: You're on your own
Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz addresses the media in Vienna, Austria March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger   -   Copyright  LEONHARD FOEGER(Reuters)
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VIENNA (Reuters) – 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, several have asked to come home.

The cabinet has sent a bill to parliament on consular assistance that makes clear that it can be denied to citizens if there is a threat to public order, the government said in a statement.

“There will in future be no assistance for people who join a terrorist organisation,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, a conservative governing in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party, told journalists.

“Anyone who leaves Austria to murder, torture or act against religious minorities and those who think differently elsewhere in the world has no right to Austria’s help,” he added. He stopped short of saying they would be barred from returning.

U.S. President Donald Trump last month urged Britain, France and Germany to take back more than 800 captured Islamic State fighters and put them on trial.

But European countries have resisted pressure to take in citizens who had sworn allegiance to groups determined to destroy the West.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and their Social Democrat coalition partners this week agreed a plan to strip some Germans who fight for Islamic State of their citizenship.

Britain last month revoked the citizenship of a teenager who had left London when she was aged 15 to join Islamic State in Syria.

Shamima Begum was found in a detention camp in Syria, and her fate has fuelled a dispute over the ramifications of leaving a 19-year-old mother with a jihadist fighter’s child to fend for herself in a war zone.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Additional reporting by Tassilo Hummel in Berlin; Editintg by Andrew Heavens)

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