WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration said Thursday that it has brought home for prosecution a U.S. national suspected of fighting alongside the Islamic State group in Syria.
The Pentagon said the individual had previously been held by Syrian Democratic Forces as a suspected member of IS. Tens of thousands of foreign fighters from across the world had traveled to Syria to join IS after it declared a global caliphate there in 2014. As militants in the last five years have lost the territory they once controlled, a couple thousand remain detained.
The identity of the person was not immediately disclosed, and it wasn’t clear where in the U.S. the individual had been brought. The Justice Department had no comment, and no charges were immediately unsealed.
U.S. officials have been encouraging other nations, including in Europe, to bring home their citizens who fought in Syria with IS. The Justice Department sees prosecutions in American courts as an example that could be set for other countries, though European nations have shown reluctance to repatriate their citizens who are now in custody.
“If you can prosecute, then that’s the thing you do,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department’s top national security official, said in June at the EU & Foreign Policy Defense Forum. He said the U.S., in hopes of encouraging other countries to take responsibility for their citizens, had put together packages on individuals who have traveled overseas to join IS and shared the information with other countries for purposes of potential prosecution.
At the same forum, Nathan Sales, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, estimated that about 2,000 people from across the world were being held by Syrian Democratic Forces.
“Now we have to make sure that they’re never able to return to the battlefield,” Sales said. “So this is in part a law enforcement problem. It’s a military problem. It’s an intelligence problem. It’s a border security problem. It’s a really knotty problem that sort of captures all the various different aspects of national security, counterterrorism in one tidy package.”
U.S. authorities routinely bring charges under a statute that makes it a crime to provide any sort of material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
CNN first reported the transfer.
By ERIC TUCKER Associated Press