ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey on Monday deported citizens of the United States and Denmark who fought for the Islamic State extremist group and made plans to expel other foreign nationals as the government began a new push to send back captured foreign fighters to their home countries, a Turkish official said.
The move comes just over a week after the Turkish interior minister said Turkey was not a "hotel" for Islamic State fighters and criticized Western nations for their reluctance to take back citizens who had joined the ranks of the extremist militant group as it sought to establish a "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said last week that about 1,200 foreign Islamic State fighters were in Turkish prisons and that 287 members, including women and children, were recaptured during Turkey's offensive in Syria.
Several European countries, including Britain, have stripped Islamic State fighters of their nationalities to prevent their return.
A U.S. and a Danish national were deported from Turkey on Monday, while a German national was scheduled to be deported later in the day, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Interior Ministry spokesman Ismail Catakli as saying. Seven other German nationals were scheduled to leave the country on Thursday, he said.
Two Irish nationals, two German nationals and 11 French nationals who were captured in Syria were also to be transferred to their home countries soon, Catakli said.
The U.S. did not immediately comment on Ankara's announcement.
Turkey's Sabah newspaper, which is close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, reported that the U.S. citizen who had been deported was stuck in a heavily militarized no man's land between the Greece and Turkey borders.
Greek police said in a statement that Turkish authorities had first tried to deport a United States citizen of Arab origin on Oct. 11 on grounds that he had exceeded his legal stay in Turkey. The man, however, stated that he did not wish to enter Greece and returned to Turkey, accompanied by Turkish police.
On Monday, he returned to the same border station on his own and asked to enter Greece, police said. Greek authorities refused him entry, sending him back to Turkey.
Stavros Tziamalides, an official from the border village of Kastanies, said the border gate was shut on the Greek side and there was a greater presence of Greek police and border guards from the Frontex European border agency.
Meanwhile, three car bombs went off Monday in the northeastern Syrian town of Qamishli near the border with Turkey, killing at least six people, while a priest was shot dead in a nearby area by extremists, state media and activists said.
Northern Syria has been hit by several explosions that have killed and wounded scores of people over the past month since Turkey began its military operation against Kurdish fighters.
Reports of the explosions gave differing casualty figures, which is not uncommon in the immediate aftermath of this kind of attack.
Syria's state Syrian Arab News Agency, which has reporters in Qamishli, said the explosions were triggered by car bombs. It said they killed at least three people and wounded around 20. It said two blasts went off in a commercial street while the third was near a hotel.
The Kurdish news agency Hawar said the blasts killed six people and wounded 21. It said two of the explosions hit a market.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said six people were killed and 22 were wounded in two of the blasts.
Elsewhere in northeastern Syria, unknown gunmen shot dead an Armenian Catholic priest and his father as they drove from Qamishli to the city of Hasakeh, according to Hawar and the Observatory.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the killing, saying its fighter shot dead two priests. The militant-linked Aamaq news agency posted a copy of the priest's identity card with his photo and name on it.
Information for this article was contributed by Geir Moulson, Jan M. Olsen, Costas Kantouris, Albert Aji and Bassem Mroue of The Associated Press.
A Section on 11/12/2019
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