Russia has returned 26 children of Islamic State fighters from Syria, the state-run TASS news agency reported Friday.
Russia has worked to bring back women and children linked to Russians who fought for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq under a program led by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed what he called a “noble” repatriation effort.
“Today’s 26 repatriated children come from Astrakhan, Dagestan, the republic of Chechnya, Orenburg and Sverdlovsk region,” Anna Kuznetsova, Russia’s top children’s rights official, told TASS.
Their ages ranged from 2 to 17 years old, Kuznetsova said, with most of the children between 6 and 8 years old.
Nine other children remained in Russia’s Khmeimim airfield in northwestern Syria awaiting completion of paperwork before boarding the next flight, TASS cited Kuznetsova as saying.
Agence France-Presse reported that Syria’s Kurds had handed over 35 Islamic State-linked Russian orphans between 4 and 16 years old Thursday.
More than 70 children will be brought back from Syria’s Roj and al-Hol camps in the near future, Kuznetsova was cited as saying.
The children’s relations to Russian nationals is being confirmed through DNA tests.
Relatives have identified at least 1,779 Russian women and children in Syria and Iraq who want to return from former Islamic State territory, Chechen human rights activists said last year.
Islamic State is a terrorist group banned in Russia.