Media caption, Children held in Islamic State group camps 'are a time bomb'

Germany says it has repatriated eight women, who had joined the so-called Islamic State (IS), and 23 children from a camp in northern Syria.

They were brought back in a joint operation with Denmark, who repatriated three women and 14 children, Germany's foreign ministry said.

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the women were in custody and faced a criminal investigation.

Hundreds of Europeans who joined IS are in Kurdish-run camps in northern Syria.

They were moved there along with thousands of others who were displaced after IS was declared territorially defeated in Syria and Iraq in March 2019.

  • The women and children no-one wants
  • IS women defiant in face of lost caliphate

Germany's foreign ministry said the women and children arrived at Frankfurt airport on Wednesday evening from Roj detention camp in north-east Syria.

Mr Maas said he was "happy" that they were back in Germany but that "the mothers will have to answer for their acts".

"The children are not responsible for their situation," he said, saying that they "were in particular need of protection".

Mittwochnacht haben Dänemark und Deutschland gemeinsam 37 Kinder und 11 Frauen aus dem Lager Roj in #Nordostsyrien zurückgeholt. Wir danken den Stellen vor Ort für die Zusammenarbeit. 1/2

— Auswärtiges Amt (@AuswaertigesAmt) October 6, 2021
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Many of the Europeans in the Syrian camps are suspected wives and children of IS fighters or sympathisers of the jihadist group.

Human rights groups have been urging governments to take their citizens back, arguing that leaving women and children in the camps puts them at risk of illness and radicalisation.

Germany jointly repatriated five women and 18 children from Syria with Finland in December; while Belgium brought home six mothers and 10 children in July.

Most governments are considering repatriations on a case-by-case basis, but some have been reluctant to bring back citizens out of security concerns.

One prominent example of this is Shamima Begum, the British schoolgirl who joined IS in 2015 and was later stripped of her UK citizenship on security grounds.

More on IS:

  • Shamima Begum: Justice and the jihadi bride
  • IS 'Beatles' plead not guilty over hostage deaths
  • Islamic State group's online propaganda library

Media caption, Matthew is now enjoying life in the US with his father, Juan