ANKARA/ISTANBUL , Dec 30 (AA/APP):Turkey deported nearly 780 foreign terrorist fighters back to their countries in 2019, the interior minister said Sunday.
“We have sent 778 foreign terrorist fighters back to their countries of origin since the beginning of the year,” Suleyman Soylu said in a live interview with CNN Turk.
Soylu did not mention whether all of them were linked to the Daesh/ISIS terror group.
There are some 1,200 foreign Daesh/ISIS members being held in Turkish prisons and nearly 300 were held in Turkey’s current anti-terror operation in northern Syria, including relatives of Daesh/ISIS members, Soylu announced on Nov. 4.
Ankara continues to deport foreign terrorists to their countries of origin.
The issue of the handling of Daesh/ISIS members and their families detained in Syria — including foreign members of the terror group — has been controversial, with Turkey arguing that foreign-born terrorists should be repatriated to their countries of origin while several European countries have refused, saying the terrorists were denationalized.
Since recognizing Daesh/ISIS as a terror group in 2013, Turkey has been attacked by the group numerous times, including 10 suicide bombings, seven bombings and four armed attacks which killed 315 people and injured hundreds.
In response to the attacks, Turkey launched anti-terror operations at home and abroad, neutralizing 3,500 Daesh/ISIS terrorists and arresting 5,500.
On nationwide anti-drug and anti-terror operations, Soylu said Turkey seized 43 million cannabis roots worth 15 billion Turkish liras ($2.5 billion) in 2019 and the country destroyed 2,700 shelters and seized 600 walkie talkies used by YPG/PKK terrorists over the last two years.
Turkey has been fighting narcoterrorism and this year confiscated more than 40 tons of marijuana.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
On the number of Syrians in Turkey’s largest city, Soylu said around 474,679 Syrians were living in Istanbul while nearly 100,000 unregistered Syrians were sent elsewhere.
“We granted citizenship to 110,000 Syrians. Of them, 53,000 were adults and 57,000 were children,” he said, adding mainly profession holders such as teachers, doctors, engineers, businesspeople and scientists were among those given Turkish citizenship.
Soylu said around 445,000 irregular migrants were held in Turkey in 2019. He blamed Western countries for the migrant wave, without elaborating.
A total of 105,000 irregular migrants were sent back to their home countries, he said, adding the number was around 68,000 last year.
“Last year, 28,000 irregular migrants were held, while this year, the number was 117,000,” Soylu said.
Since the eruption of the bloody civil war in Syria in 2011, Turkey has taken in some 3.7 million fleeing Syrians, making it the world’s top refugee-hosting country.