Kosovo police question several women who returned from Syria

Kosovo police question several women who returned from Syria
By Reuters
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By Fatos Bytyci

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo police and prosecutors have interrogated several of the women who returned from Syria by plane on Saturday, lawyers who took part in the questioning said on Monday.

Kosovo brought back 110 of its citizens from Syria, including 32 women, 74 children and four jihadists who had gone to fight in the country's civil war.

The four fighters were immediately arrested and detained for 30 days awaiting questioning, while women and children were sent to the Foreign Detention Centre in the outskirts of Pristina.

"I represented a woman who came back from Syria. She is accused for being part of the terrorist groups and she was in very bad health condition," lawyer Fehmie Gashi-Bytyqi told Reuters.

A number of visitors were seen in front of the Foreign Detention Center on Monday morning, hoping to see relatives. Children, some small girls wearing hijabs, were outside in the sunny weather playing soccer with police officers.

Doctors were constantly entering and leaving the buildings to carry out medical checks on the returnees.

Merita Bajraktari, who was among the many female lawyers present, said: "My client is accused of being part of terrorist groups and she is also the wife of another person who was returned to Kosovo on Saturday where he was arrested."

After the collapse of Islamic State's self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return.

The population of Kosovo is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but largely secular in outlook. More than 300 of its citizens had travelled to Syria since 2012 and 70 men who fought alongside militant groups were killed.

Police said 30 Kosovan fighters, 49 women and eight children remain in the conflict zones. The government said it plans to bring back those who are still there.

International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by David Holmes)

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