Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

Saudi children kidnapped to join ISIS return home

The boys' mother received them at the airport in Riyadh after having not seen them for five years

A child waits behind a wire fence door in Al Hol camp, which houses relatives of ISIS members, in northeastern Syria, March 28, 2019. AFP
A child waits behind a wire fence door in Al Hol camp, which houses relatives of ISIS members, in northeastern Syria, March 28, 2019. AFP

Saudi Arabia has repatriated two Saudi children who were kidnapped by their father and taken to join ISIS, according to Al Arabiya.

In a scene of emotional outpouring, the mother of the children is seen in a video embracing her two sons in Riyadh airport for the first time in five years.

The father had taken his two sons to Turkey, apparently on vacation. But their mother, Shourouq Al Muhaini lost contact with them shortly after their leaving Saudi Arabia.

The mother had been separated from the father and said she had worked to get in contact with him but could not.

“I’m just glad it’s worked out now,” she told Al Arabiya.

The father then took the two sons to Syria, where he is believed to have killed himself in a suicide operation shortly after arrival.

"We are in Saudi Arabia, in safety and security," said Abdullah Al Shayek, 16, “we have safety and security here that no other citizens know around the world.”

His brother, Ahmed, 13, was blinded in one eye after shrapnel damaged his iris. He was treated by ISIS but not enough to restore his eyesight.

“They just sewed it up and said get up, that was it,” he said.

Ms Al Muhaini recommended that mothers should pay close attention to children and to approach authorities if disappearances happen.

The repatriation of the two boys was fraught with legal procedures that Saudi Arabia had not dealt with for some time. Through years of court documents and security checks, the two boys were taken from Syria to Saudi Arabia via Turkey.

An uncle present at the airport was seen in tears receiving the two boys.

“God bless the men who brought him back,” he said. “And God bless this country.”

The whole family was present to receive the children. After health checks, they were expected to return home with their mother.

By 2018, at least 3,244 Saudi citizens had joined ISIS or were involved in some way, making the kingdom one of the biggest contributors to foreign fighters to the terrorist group, according to Dr Eman Ragab, an expert in regional security and Acting Head of Security and Military Studies in al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic studies.

In a paper published last year, Dr Ragab said that 760 fighters have been returned to Saudi Arabia after being caught in operations against ISIS.

Saudi Arabia was the target of several attacks by ISIS members in 2015. Security forces under Mohammed bin Nayef, the former Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, managed to reduce the threat within the kingdom and pledged to defeat the terrorist entity abroad.

Saudi security services continue to their policy of receiving victims and family members who had been kidnapped and taken to join terrorist entities abroad.

Updated: March 31, 2019 05:13 PM

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