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Swiss won’t assist in bringing extremist fighters home

The Swiss government said only children who hold citizenship and are in the conflict zone, might get help to return to Switzerland. (Reuters)
Switzerland will not help bring home adult citizens who joined up with extremist fighters in Syria and Iraq, the government said on Friday, insisting national security was paramount.

The government will not block the return of the around 20 such Swiss men, women and children in the conflict zone, but will take no active measures to repatriate the adults, the cabinet said in a statement. Only children might get help to return, it added.

“For the government, the ultimate goal is clear: Switzerland’s security and the protection of its population are top priorities,” it said, adding it would try to prevent extremists from slipping back into Switzerland.

Neighboring Austria said on Wednesday it would not help repatriate any citizens who fought for ISIS and other militant groups, as countries across the West wrestle with how to deal with returning militants.

Hundreds of people are believed to have left Europe to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. With the militant group down to its last shred of territory, some have asked to come home.

Switzerland’s justice minister had said last month she would prefer to have citizens who fought for ISIS tried on the spot rather than be brought home to face criminal charges, a stance the government has now reaffirmed.