President Trump on Tuesday accused European nations of “refusing” to take back ISIS prisoners who originally were from their countries, as he said decisions are “being made” as to what to do with the nearly 2,000 ISIS fighters captured in the final assault on their now-destroyed caliphate.
“We have 1,800 ISIS Prisoners taken hostage in our final battles to destroy 100% of the Caliphate in Syria. Decisions are now being made as to what to do with these dangerous prisoners,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
“European countries are not helping at all, even though this was very much done for their benefit. They are refusing to take back prisoners from their specific countries. Not good!” he said.
The president’s tweets come amid a months-long effort to convince European countries to take back their citizens captured on the battlefield in the Middle East. The topic is a complicated one, as Islamic State prisoners held in Syria and Iraq are subject to the death penalty or torture if they remain in jail. The European Union, though, opposes the death penalty.
The president has been met with resistance from European nations, as they consider how to bring their citizens fighting in Syria home for trial.
In February, the president first asked Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to “take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial.”
“The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them,” Trump warned earlier this year.
“The U.S. does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go. We do so much, and spend so much - Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!” he tweeted in February.
At the time, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said to CNBC that the return of potential terrorists to the EU would be “a challenge for all of us.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blasted the EU and the U.S.
“Our western colleagues from Europe first of all and from other parts of the world do not want to take international terrorists and members of militias that were captured by Americans and Kurds at the east brink of the Euphrates,” Lavrov said Tuesday according to Al Masdar News.
“Americans threaten that they will free them, and this would be an awful crime, I think. The Europeans refuse to take these criminals although they are citizens of European states. The last I heard is that they are trying to persuade the Iraqi authorities to take them. It is not funny,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.