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US repatriates 11 US citizens from northeast Syria

By Jennifer Hansler, CNN

(CNN) — The United States has repatriated 11 US citizens, including five minors, as well as the sibling of one of those minors, from northeast Syria in what Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the “largest single repatriation” of Americans from that region.

In a statement Tuesday, Blinken described it as a “complex repatriation and resettlement” that was “coordinated closely with our interagency partners.”

All of the repatriated citizens are part of one family and none are former ISIS fighters, a State Department official told CNN.

An American woman repatriated to the United States is facing criminal charges for training with ISIS abroad, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday.

Halima Salman was one of the 11 US citizens who were repatriated Tuesday, according to a US official. CNN has not been able to identify a lawyer for Salman and has reached out to the State Department for comment on the charges against her.

There are tens of thousands of people, “the majority of whom are children,” from more than 60 countries who remain in two sprawling encampments – Al-Hol and Roj – in northeast Syria, according to Blinken.

The US has worked to repatriate Americans from the former ISIS territory, and has encouraged other nations to repatriate their own citizens as well.

“The only durable solution to the humanitarian and security crisis in the displaced persons camps and detention facilities in northeast Syria is for countries to repatriate, rehabilitate, reintegrate, and where appropriate, ensure accountability for wrongdoing,” Blinken said.

Twenty-three people were brought out of Syria as part of the repatriation operation, Blinken said, as the US “also facilitated the repatriation of six Canadian citizens, four Dutch citizens, and one Finnish citizen, among them eight children.”

“We thank these governments for their partnership and applaud their demonstration of leadership by bringing their nationals home. We thank the Government of Kuwait for its support, and also the Syrian Democratic Forces for its assistance,” he said.

“The United States remains committed to helping those nations which seek to repatriate their nationals from northeast Syria, and to finding solutions, including resettlement, for those who are unable to return to their communities or countries of origin,” the top US diplomat said.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz contributed to this report.

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