Iraq said on Monday it has handed over to Russia 33 children of Russian women suspected of joining the Islamic State extremist group, as Moscow announced that it had broken up an Islamic State cell on its home turf.
A spokesman for Iraq’s Foreign Ministry, Ahmed al-Sahaf, said in a statement that the children were deported to Russia on July 10 after coordination with the Russian embassy in Baghdad.
Al-Sahaf added that the Foreign Ministry had deported 473 Islamic State children from different nationalities, including Russia, France, Germany, and Turkey.
He called on all countries to step up efforts to receive their nationals involved in joining the extremist group.
In May, Iraq said it handed over 188 children of Islamic State militants to Turkey.
A Russian federal law enforcement agency said on Monday that the authorities had broken up an Islamic State terrorist cell in the south region of Rostov that included three Russian citizens.
The group was planning to attack police and commit terrorist attacks in crowded public areas, the Federal Security Service said in a statement.
The ringleader was killed when authorities pulled over his vehicle and he opened fire from an assault rifle, the statement said.
“Amid the return fire, an unidentified explosive device detonated in the vehicle. The criminal was killed at the scene,” Al-Sahaf said.
Last week seven Islamic State members were given lengthy prison sentences in Moscow for attempting to derail a high-speed train that runs between Russia’s two largest cities, Moscow and St Petersburg, state media reported.
The Moscow District Military Court sentenced those defendants – all nationals of the former Soviet, Central Asian republic of Tajikistan – to between 15 and 21 years in prison.
Russia is a main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and its military has sought to eradicate Islamic State in Syria in recent years in the ongoing multi-sided civil war.
Islamic State’s decline in Syria and neighbouring Iraq has prompted fears in Russia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union that returning extremists would bring the war back with them.
Thousands of foreign fighters joined Islamic State when it seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014.
In Dec. 2017, the Iraqi government declared military victory over the extremist militia.
Islamic State operatives, however, continue to carry out attacks and kidnappings across Iraq.
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