UPDATES WITH REMARKS OF INTERIOR MINISTER ON FOREIGN TERRORISTS' DEPORTATION ; REVISES HEADLINE, DECK, LEDE
By Burak Bir
ANKARA (AA) - Turkey deported almost 780 foreign terrorist fighters back to their countries of origin in 2019, the interior minister said on Sunday.
"We have sent 778 foreign terrorist fighters back to their countries of origin since the beginning of the year," Suleyman Soylu said in a live interview with CNN Turk.
Soylu did not mention whether all the foreign terrorists were linked to the Daesh/ISIS terror group.
There are some 1,200 foreign ISIS/Daesh members being held in Turkish prisons, and nearly 300 were held in Turkey’s current anti-terror operation in northern Syria, including relatives of ISIS/Daesh members, Soylu announced on Nov. 4.
Ankara continues deporting foreign terrorists to their countries of origin.
The issue of handling of Daesh/ISIS members and their families detained in Syria -- including foreign members of the terror group -- has been controversial, with Turkey arguing foreign-born terrorists should be repatriated to their countries of origin, while several European countries have refused, saying the terrorists were denationalized.
Since recognizing Daesh/ISIS as a terror group in 2013, Turkey has been attacked by the group numerous times, including 10 suicide bombings, seven bombings, and four armed attacks which killed 315 people and injured hundreds.
In response to the attacks, Turkey launched anti-terror operations at home and abroad, neutralizing 3,500 Daesh/ISIS terrorists and arresting 5,500.
On the nationwide anti-drug and anti-terror operations, Soylu said that Turkey seized 43 million cannabis roots worth 15 billion Turkish liras ($2.5 billion) in 2019 and the country destroyed 2,700 shelters and seized 600 walkie talkies used by YPG/PKK terrorists over the last two years.
Turkey has been fighting narcoterrorism, and this year confiscated over 40 tons of marijuana, only.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.