Islamist terror suspects will be allowed back to Ireland even if they were ISIS fighters, says Taoiseach
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Islamist terror suspects will be allowed back to Ireland even if they were ISIS fighters, says Taoiseach

IRELAND will take back suspected extremists from Syria even if they fought for terror groups such as Islamic State, Leo Varadkar has said.

The Taoiseach said he would be "loathe to revoke anyone's citizenship" and offload them "to be someone else's problem", after the UK stripped ISIS bride Shamima Begum of her British citizenship last week.

Speaking to journalists at the EU/Arab League Summit in Egypt, Mr Varadkar was asked whether he would follow UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid's lead in rendering Irish citizens fleeing the collapsing terror regime "stateless".

The Taoiseach said: "That’s going to depend on the individual circumstances. We think we may only have one Irish citizen (in ISIS), it may be as few as one.

"We’ll have to consider whether these people legitimately acquired their citizenship.

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"We’re going to have to decide that on a case by case basis, but I would be very loathe to revoke anyone’s citizenship, provided they are a citizen by right, or acquired their citizenship appropriately".

He added: "I think it’s bad practice to revoke someone’s citizenship and render them stateless and leave them to be somebody else’s problem."

As many as 30 Irish citizens travelled to fight in Syria and Iraq in recent years (Image: File)

Mr Varadkar's comments come against the backdrop of a debate on either side of the Atlantic over how to deal with returning ISIS fighters and their families.

US President Donald Trump recently called on European countries to take back 800 jihadis captured by American-backed forces in Syria and put them on trial.

Some EU countries including Germany and France have indicated they are preparing to take back extremists holding their passports, but the UK has stood firm.

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Debate in Britain has focused on the case of Ms Begum, 19, who fled London aged 15 to join Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria before begging to be allowed home with her newborn son following the terror group's defeat this month.

The teenager's two older children have died but Begum said she does not regret becoming a jihadi bride in several interviews given to journalists from a Syrian refugee camp.

Mr Javid revoked her UK passport after finding she qualified for citizenship in Bangladesh, where her father is from.

Last December, Irish passport holder Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev was captured by Kurdish forces in Syria during an operation against ISIS.

Bekmirzaev was on a Garda watchlist over his ties to other extremists during his 13 years in Dublin before he fled to join the terror group in 2013.

He was one of at least 30 people known to have flown from Ireland to fight in Syria and Iraq. Not all of them joined ISIS as some joined the Kurds, but several are now dead.