TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Five women and 14 children who were the families of Albanian nationals who joined Islamic extremist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq on Sunday returned to their homeland from Syria’s Al Hol camp.
Flying from Lebanon they were accompanied by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Interior Minister Bledi Cuci.
“It is a very positive event, I believe, and, of course, we shall not stop here,” said Rama at a news conference at Tirana international airport.
The 19 women and children will be taken to a shelter in the western port city of Durres where police and social experts will “make all the necessary medical and psychological examination, to be followed by a quarantine period,” after which some may be allowed to rejoin their families.
He did not say whether the women would be prosecuted.
This is the third effort at repatriating Albanians from the fighting territories in Syria.
In October last year five Albanians were repatriated, while a child returned to the country a year earlier.
A few hundred Albanian men joined the Islamic State and other groups fighting in Syria and Iraq in the early 2010s. Many were killed, and their wives and children are stuck in Syrian camps.
About 30 other children and women are believed to be in Syrian camps but Rama said that number is unclear, adding that two women had refused to get in contact for repatriation, fearing their lives.
About two-thirds of Albania’s 2.85 million people are Muslims.
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Llazar Semini, The Associated Press