US considers Guantanamo, Iraqi prisons for ISIS fighters captured by Syrian rebels: report

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The Trump administration is considering sending hundreds of captured ISIS fighters held in Syria to an Iraqi prison or the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, NBC News reported Monday.

Five U.S. officials told NBC that several of the highest-value fighters could possibly go to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

{mosads}Those detainees include Alexandar Amon Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, two Islamic State fighters who took part in killing Americans, including journalists James Foley Steven Sotloff, and other Western hostages.

A group of about 600 ISIS fighters are currently being held by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in a rebel-controlled area of Syria, the U.S. officials confirmed.

The SDF, a majority Kurdish militia, do not have the resources to detain, prosecute or protect the detainees it continues its fight against ISIS.

Complicating matters is the fact that many of the prisoners are foreign-born and there has been difficulty in convincing their home countries to repatriate them.

The administration’s proposal would send most detainees to Iraq to be held in Iraqi prisons with Iraqi guards. The U.S. might keep the right to prosecute them if their home countries won’t take them.

Prisons under consideration include the detention facility at al Asad Airbase in Anbar Province.

The U.S has discussed the option with the Baghdad, but does not yet have an agreement, according to three U.S. officials.

The plan — specifically sending new detainees to Guantanamo — has drawn criticism from U.S. lawmakers, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). In July, both visited the prison where the SDF is holding the fighters.

Shaheen, along with other congressional Democrats and human rights groups, says ISIS fighters suspected of murdering Americans should be tried in federal court instead of held indefinitely without charges.

Graham, meanwhile, said the two high value ISIS prisoners should be sent to Guantanamo only as a temporary move before a possible trial in a civilian court in the U.S.

Spokespeople for the National Security Council and the State Department would not comment to NBC News on options for detained foreign fighters.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson told NBC that the Defense Department’s detainee policy “provides our warfighters guidance on nominating detainees for transfer to Guantanamo detention should the individual present a continuing, significant threat to the security of the United States.”

Tags Guantanamo Bay detention camp Guantánamo Bay ISIS Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Jeanne Shaheen Lindsey Graham SDF Syrian Democratic Forces
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