Russia 'repatriates' 27 ISIS children from Iraq

A group of 27 Russian children whose mothers are being held in Iraq for belonging to ISIS arrived home in Russia on Sunday.

The children landed at Zhukovsky International Airport, near Moscow, on Sunday evening, a spokesman for the Ministry of Emergency Situations said.

Thirty other children had been sent back to Moscow in late December.

The fathers of the children were killed during three years of fighting between the extremists and Iraqi troops, the official said.

Anna Kuznetsova, Russia's envoy for the rights of children, confirmed the report, according to the Tass state news agency.

She said the 27 children were aged from four to 13 and were from 10 different regions in Russia.

ISIS seized large parts of Iraq in a lightning 2014 offensive, before the government dislodged the militants from urban centres and eventually declared victory in December 2017.

The Kremlin announced in early January that 115 Russian children aged under ten – along with eight aged between 11 and 17 – were still in Iraq.

Iraqi law allows detainees to be held with their offspring until the age of three, but older children have to live with relatives.

In November, Kheda Saratova – an adviser to Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov – estimated "around 2,000" widows and children of Russian ISIS fighters were still in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

About a hundred women and children – mostly from Caucasus republics – have returned to Russia so far.

Nearly 4,500 Russian citizens went abroad to fight "on the side of terrorists", Russia's FSB domestic intelligence agency said last year.

More than 300 people, including around 100 foreign women, have been sentenced to death in Iraq for belonging to the ISIS, while others have been sentenced to life in prison.

Most of those convicted are Turks or originate from former republics of the Soviet Union.