The captured ISIS fighters that nobody wants

What do you do with 400 of the world's most unwanted extremists, held in a territory that isn't technically a state, ...

Posted: Feb 13, 2018 4:05 PM
Updated: Feb 13, 2018 4:05 PM

What do you do with 400 of the world's most unwanted extremists, held in a territory that isn't technically a state, that doesn't really have the legal means to extradite them, or the resources to jail them indefinitely?

That's the question facing Syrian Kurdish forces and their US allies in northern Syria now.

The final stages of the anti-ISIS battle swept up a large number of ISIS fighters, including many foreigners. Some may have been allowed to leave Raqqa, the so-called capital of the caliphate, in the final deal agreed between the Syrian Kurds and ISIS to reduce civilian casualties, under which dozens of ISIS fighters, foreign and Syrian, fled with civilians into the desert.

Other ISIS fighters have been on the run longer. Some are unknown players, but some are also noted criminals, like the so-called "Beatles" -- British ISIS fighters who taunted western audiences as they tortured and executed bound, unarmed hostages kneeling before them.

Their fate has presented the US -- to whom much of the world looks for a solution to this problem -- with a quandary.

The US principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Katie Wheelbarger, recently told reporters: "These aren't necessarily the best detention facilities in the sense of they are being held in Syria and not in the most secure area. I think it would be better if we make sure they are prosecuted if possible in their countries of origin." To this end, talks with other members of the coalition were ongoing, she said.

But the US cannot force other countries to accept their citizens back. Some do not want their extremists.

Notably, five days after their capture, the UK has made no public statement about what it wants to do with the two surviving "Beatles," named by US intelligence sources as El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey. There is clearly a reluctance to put them on public trial in the UK. Perhaps it is out of a fear that it would give them a platform for their extremist beliefs. But there is also a risk of failure -- it may be hard to gather convincing evidence of crimes committed in a far away land. The remains of many victims have yet to be located.

A US official says there has been no discussion about bringing Elsheikh and Kotey to Guantanamo Bay, the American detention facility in Cuba that is frowned upon by UK politicians. Further complicating the situation, one western official told CNN there is a strong possibility of the Beatles being stripped of their UK citizenship.

That would effectively leave them stateless, held by an unrecognized state controlled by Syrian Kurds in northern Syria. France's foreign minister has indicated that its citizens should be tried in northern Syria. But the Syrian Kurds are unlikely to have the capacity to try hundreds of ISIS members. So then what? Indefinite detention, or execution, by an unrecognized state? Would that mollify Europe's moral jitters here?

There is one possible solution. When US forces detain someone on the anti-ISIS battlefield, they sometimes hand them over to Iraqi security forces. Iraq is the only functional state where ISIS has territory, and with which the US has a diplomatic relationship. They have also been trying those ISIS fighters caught in their territory quickly and putting many on death row. Many detainees may have been to Iraq as well as Syria, perhaps putting their conduct under Iraqi jurisdiction.

In the meantime, the legal complications are mounting -- as is the number of detainees -- in a detention facility that's far from ideal. It is extraordinary that after nearly 17 years since the September 11 attacks, and after four years combating ISIS at home and abroad, Europe's capitals still stumble when working out what to do with this latest variation of defeated extremist.

West Lafayette
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 71°
Kokomo
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 69°
Rensselaer
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 63°
Fowler
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 63°
Williamsport
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 68°
Crawfordsville
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 67°
Frankfort
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 67°
Delphi
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 69°
Monticello
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 69°
Logansport
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 68°
Turning Warmer & More Humid, Then Big Cool-Down
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 76522

Reported Deaths: 3086
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion16194731
Lake7742281
Elkhart495586
Allen4040163
St. Joseph361083
Hamilton2887104
Vanderburgh205313
Hendricks1943108
Cass18069
Johnson1794119
Porter136239
Clark130750
Tippecanoe124511
Madison103066
LaPorte93530
Howard92065
Kosciusko87212
Floyd82249
Bartholomew82147
Marshall79423
Monroe76732
Delaware76052
Vigo71411
Dubois71312
Boone69746
Noble69029
Hancock68839
Jackson5975
Warrick58830
Shelby56828
LaGrange56610
Grant53130
Dearborn51628
Morgan48934
Clinton4504
Henry41820
Wayne38810
White37711
Montgomery36021
Lawrence35727
Harrison35224
Decatur34232
Putnam3218
Daviess27920
Miami2772
Scott27310
Jasper2572
Greene25434
Franklin24715
DeKalb2384
Gibson2334
Jennings22812
Steuben2153
Ripley2138
Carroll2003
Fayette1957
Perry18713
Posey1800
Starke1807
Orange17824
Wells1782
Fulton1732
Wabash1715
Jefferson1662
Knox1640
Whitley1566
Tipton14912
Washington1441
Sullivan1411
Spencer1393
Clay1315
Huntington1273
Randolph1274
Newton12110
Adams1172
Owen1051
Jay920
Rush894
Pulaski821
Fountain762
Brown752
Blackford662
Ohio656
Benton640
Pike620
Vermillion590
Parke551
Switzerland530
Martin500
Crawford450
Union410
Warren241
Unassigned0208

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events