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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 March 2019

Iraqi president says Baghdad to prosecute ISIS fighters captured in Syria

US-backed Syrian forces have handed over hundreds of ISIS members to neighbouring Iraq

 French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with Iraqi's President Barham Saleh upon his arrival for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, 25 February 2019. EPA
 French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with Iraqi's President Barham Saleh upon his arrival for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, 25 February 2019. EPA

Iraq’s President Barham Salih said on Monday that French ISIS detainees transferred to the country will be prosecuted, as the extremist group cling to their last patch of territory across the border in Syria.

Hundreds of ISIS fighters were handed over by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to Iraq in two successive batches last week, including 13 French nationals, who are now in Iraqi custody.

“Iraq will try ISIS fighters who committed crimes against Iraqis or Iraqi installations,” Mr Salih said during a press conference in Paris with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

The French fighters "will be judged according to Iraqi law," the president said.

At its height in 2014 and 2015, ISIS ruled over an area that spanned one third of Iraqi and Syrian territory and attracted followers from all over the world.

Iraqi forces supported by a US-led international coalition slowly regained control of all the militant-held areas and the government declared victory over ISIS in December 2017.

“The world must act together to end the phenomenon of terrorism,” Mr Salih said during his two-day visit to France, which has focused on the country’s security and the fight against ISIS.

The SDF is holding more than 900 foreign fighters in prisons it runs in the country’s north, many of them Iraqis and Europeans.

But terror cells are still operating in northern Iraq. They have carried out abductions, assassinations, and roadside ambushes aimed at intimidating locals and resuming the extortion rackets that financed the rise to power of ISIS six years ago.

“Iraq has not seen any stability during the last four decades, the road ahead is not going to be smooth or easy, but Iraqis are determined to ensure that political, security and economic stability prevails,” Mr Salih said.

On his part, President Macron said he is planning to visit Baghdad later this year.

"The old friendship [between France and Iraq] has served as a barrier against terrorism, we must now nourish it with concrete projects to build long-lasting peace together," Mr Macron said during the press conference.

"That will be my message when I visit Iraq in a few months," he added

The president reaffirmed his full support to Iraq especially as it faces challenges regarding security, stability and reconstruction.

France remains militarily involved in Iraq, through training and logistical support of Iraqi forces and intelligence missions. Both countries are also seeking to enhance their economic partnership.

Updated: February 25, 2019 08:41 PM

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