ANKARA, Turkey — An American citizen suspected of being an Islamic State group member was deported to the U.S. on Friday after spending five days in no man’s land between Turkey and Greece, the Turkish interior minister said.
Suleyman Soylu said the suspect — identified by local media as 39-year-old Muhammad Darwis B. — had been put on a plane to the U.S. from Istanbul “a short time ago.”
Two German ISIS suspects were also removed from Turkey on Friday, the minister added. He did not specify where in the U.S. the American suspect had been sent or the destinations of the other two suspects.
Since the start of the week, Ankara has stepped up the return of suspected foreign ISIS members back to their countries of origin. Earlier cases saw suspects sent to Denmark, Germany and the U.K. Other deportations involving Irish, German and French citizens are pending.
The U.S. citizen, who is of Jordanian origin, had been left between Turkey's Pazarkule border gate and the Greek frontier at Kastanies since Nov. 11.
On Thursday, Turkey's Interior Ministry said repatriation was underway after the U.S. agreed to accept him and provided travel documents. He initially asked to be sent to Greece from Turkey, but Athens refused to take him in.
Following European criticism of its military incursion into northern Syria and an EU decision to impose sanctions over drilling for gas off Cyprus, Turkey has suggested that it will send suspected ISIS foreign fighters back to their home nations.
"You should revise your stance toward Turkey, which at the moment holds so many ISIS members in prison and at the same time controls those in Syria," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday.
Turkey said last week that about 1,200 IS militants are in Turkish prisons and 287 ISIS members, including women and children, were captured during Turkey's offensive in Syria, launched last month.