The wives and children of French jihadists who travelled to Syria to join Islamic State (Isis) have been found in refugee camps around the besieged town of Raqqa, the terror group's former de facto capital. A camp in Aïn Issa, a town 50km from Raqqa, is hosting families of Isis fighters. A section is reserved for foreign families, including Lebanese, Maghrebian, Dagestan, and French, France Info reported.
Children aged between five and eight were heard speaking French in the camp. Their mothers said they were from Raqqa - after travelling from France - and that their passports had been confiscated. "We do not have a phone, we want to go home," some of them were quoted as saying. They added they had made a "mistake" by travelling to Raqqa.
Isis seized Raqqa in 2014, turning it into the capital of its self-declared Caliphate. In its pursuit to expand its dominion, the group called on fellow Muslim men and women around the world to join their fight, leading to hundreds of "foreign fighters" travelling to the Middle East and living inside the captured towns and cities under its administration.
Battle for Raqqa
Isis is progressively losing territories in both Syria and Iraq due to multinational offensives that have led to the recapture of several territories held by the militants.
Raqqa has witnessed intensified fighting in recent months after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by a US-led coalition – started a campaign to recapture the Isis stronghold.
The demise of Isis in Raqqa could be imminent as the latest reports suggest coalition forces are advancing in the city and only a handful of foreign militants remain in the area, clustered in one small zone around the city's national hospital and stadium.
A convoy of Syrian Isis fighters quit Raqqa on 15 October and between 200 and 300 militants are thought to remain. Foreign fighters were barred from leaving Raqqa with the surrendering local Isis militants as part of a deal between local officials and tribesmen. Thousands of civilians have also fled since the offensive to recapture Raqqa began in June 2017.