WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday all known Americans allegedly supporting Islamic State militants and being held by U.S.-backed forces in Syria have been returned, some to face criminal charges, and urged Europe to account for their citizens backing the militant group.
In a statement, the U.S. Department of Justice said two alleged U.S. Islamic State supporters made court appearances in Florida on Wednesday for charges of providing the group material support. That brings the total number of U.S. citizens back in custody from Syria and Iraq to 27, and among those, 10 face charges, it said.
Two other Americans facing similar charges faced U.S. court action in Minnesota and Washington on Sept. 16, the department added.
“The United States has brought back every American supporter of ISIS known to be held by the Syrian Democratic Forces against whom we have charges,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said, calling the effort a “moral responsibility.”
The Kurdish-led SDF in northeast Syria is backed by the United States.
The department also urged other countries, especially those in Western Europe, to act and said it would help them take “responsibility for their citizens who left to take up arms in support of ISIS’s reign of hate and intolerance.”
Europeans make up about one-fifth of the 10,000 ISIS fighters held by Kurdish militias in Syria, but many European nations have hesitated to repatriate citizens linked to the group for fear of a public backlash.
U.S. officials have said that Islamic State is evolving from a militant group with aims to hold territory in the Middle East to a global network that hopes to inspire extremist ideology and attacks elsewhere.
The Trump administration, meanwhile, has moved to draw down U.S. troops sent to help defeat Islamic State fighters in Iraq and is weighing a possible reduction of its diplomatic presence in the country.
Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum
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