A suspected American national and Islamic State group fighter who has been stranded in heavily militarized no-man's land between Turkey and Greece will be repatriated to the United States, Turkey’s state-run news agency said Thursday.
Turkish media have identified the man as 39-year-old Mohammad Darwis B. and said he was a U.S. citizen of Jordanian background. USA TODAY has not been able to independently verify his identity. The move comes a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with President Donald Trump in Washington.
Repatriating foreign nationals who fought for the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, in Syria and Iraq remains a divisive issue, with many countries refusing to accept the former terrorist fighters and their families on national security grounds. The United States and Britain have sought to strip some Islamic State group members of their citizenship, a move that contravenes a 1961 United Nations convention on statelessness. A federal judge ruled Thursday that Hoda Muthana, a U.S.-born ISIS member who is currently in Syria, is not an American citizen based on her father’s diplomatic status at the time of her birth. Turkey has been heavily critical of such moves, partly because many former ISIS fighters have ended up on its territory.
Turkey's Anadolu Agency reported that Mohammad Darwis B. was left stranded in the border zone between Turkey and Greece after he was deported from Turkey on Monday. He asked to be granted admission to Greece, but after authorities there also refused to take him in he ended up marooned in the fortified buffer zone.
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Turkey's interior ministry said it launched a repatriation process to the U.S. after receiving assurances from U.S. authorities that Mohammad Darwis B. would be allowed to travel to and enter the U.S. Turkey has indicated it is holding about 1,200 foreign ISIS fighters in its prisons whom it wants to send back to their countries of origin. It was not immediately clear which U.S. authorities Turkey has been communicating with over Mohammad Darwis B.'s case.
Trump has repeatedly called on European countries to take back their nationals who have fought for ISIS. He said earlier this year that U.S.-backed forces in Syria were holding more than 800 militants from countries such as Britain, France and Germany. Some of these captives, it has been reported but not fully confirmed, may have escaped detention in northeast Syria after Turkey last month launched a military offensive targeting U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.
The move infuriated many U.S. diplomats and members of Congress and led to the imposition of U.S. sanctions on Turkey, which Trump later lifted.
"I'm a big fan of the president," Trump said of Erdogan during a news conference on Wednesday. Erdogan called Trump "My dear friend."
Turkey said that in addition to the American, it would also soon expel ISIS suspects from Denmark, Germany, Ireland and France.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: American ISIS fighter stranded in no-man's land to be sent to U.S.