Belgium seeks extradition of female jihadist in Turkey
Belgium will seek the extradition from Turkey of a female citizen who joined the Islamic State group in Syria then escaped from a Kurdish-controlled camp, officials said Tuesday.
The federal prosecutor’s office confirmed reports that the Belgian, identified as Fatima Benmezian, 24, fled the camp in Ain Issa last month during chaos created by Turkey’s military offensive into northern Syria.
The Belgian newspapers De Morgen and Het Laatste Nieuws said she was arrested last Friday when she crossed over the border into Turkey with the help of smugglers.
They said she was convicted in Belgium in her absence in 2015 for having joined IS, which is designated a terrorist organisation.
“She was indeed arrested in (the Turkish border town of) Kilis, then transferred to a detention centre in Turkey and we are preparing her extradition,” a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, Eric Van Duyse, told AFP.
Once back in Belgium, she would have two weeks to decide whether she wants a retrial for her 2015 conviction, he said.
Thousands of IS jihadists are being held by Kurdish fighters in Syria, among them around 50 Belgian citizens, according to Belgian authorities.
In mid-October, the authorities said two of those Belgian ex-combattants escaped their detention centre.
As well as holding captured jihadist fighters, Kurdish forces are running camps hosting women and children of various nationalities who constituted families with IS members.
Around 800 of them fled the Ain Issa camp in the confusion surrounding Turkey’s military offensive in the region.
Despite an October 22 deal between Turkey and Russia that put an end to that offensive, worries persist about the fate of jihadists in the area.