ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey said on Monday it had deported 11 French nationals back to France as part of a programme to extradite “foreign terrorist fighters”.
The Interior Ministry, which made the announcement, gave no details. France’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment, but diplomatic sources said the 11 included four women and seven children.
Turkey is holding hundreds of Islamic State suspects and last month launched a programme to repatriate detainees that has caused friction with its NATO allies.
Ankara has accused European countries of being too slow to take back citizens who travelled to the Middle East to fight.
Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said in November that Turkey will repatriate most detainees with suspected links to Islamic State by the end of this year.
The move is forcing European capitals to decide how to handle the return of radicalised militants, including those with battlefield experience.
Paris signed an agreement with Turkey five years ago for French nationals arrested by Turkish authorities to be deported in coordination with French authorities. Almost 300 French nationals have been expelled by Turkey since then, according to French officials.
France’s foreign ministry and interior ministry declined to comment.
(Reporting by Dominic Evans in Istanbul and John Irish and Tangi Salaun in Paris)