US president Donald Trump has said Britain and other European allies should “take back” more than 800 Islamic State fighters captured in Syria.
Mr Trump warned the IS fighters could “permeate Europe” and called on Britain, France and Germany to “step up” and put the prisoners on trial in their countries.
He said: “The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them.
“The US does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go.
“We do so much, and spend so much – Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!”
IS fighters are contained to an area of 700 square metres, with Ciya Furat, a commander with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), telling reporters on Saturday: “We will very soon bring good news to the whole world.”
The capture of the last pocket still held by IS fighters in Baghouz would mark the end of a devastating four-year global campaign to stop the extremist group’s hold on territory in Syria and Iraq — their so-called “caliphate” that at the height of the group’s power in 2014 controlled nearly a third of both Iraq and Syria.
However, the end of the terror group’s territorial control would not mean an end to the group, with Mr Furat saying the SDF would continue the fight against sleeper cells.
The comments from Mr Trump come after ministerial differences of opinion relating to the repatriation of foreign fighters and their relations to the UK – provoked by the case of 19-year-old Shamima Begum.
Pregnant Ms Begum ran away to IS-controlled Syria but now wants to return to the UK to bring up her baby.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid has warned he “will not hesitate” to prevent the return of Britons who travelled to join IS, but Justice Secretary David Gauke told Sky News “we can’t make people stateless”.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said “not for the first time” he disagreed with Mr Trump.
He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday some of those affected by the Manchester Arena suicide bombing in 2017 feel strongly about the issue.
He said: “If somebody leaves this country and joins a group that is actively plotting to harm and kill people in this country, it surely can’t be right that then people come and walk straight back in when it’s convenient.
“I know that some of those caught up in the Manchester attack feel very strongly about this situation because of the echos of the situation that happened there so no, I don’t believe that Donald Trump is right about this.”
But former head of the Army Lord Dannatt told the programme Britain and other countries must “take responsibility for their citizens”.
He said: “Taking responsibility means that we bring them back, we talk to them, we investigate them, and if there are charges that could properly be laid against them then that should be the case and they should be put through the judicial process and punished accordingly.
“But I think it’s important that we do treat these people fairly. As I say I think how we treat them will be seen by other minority populations in our country and that will affect how they behave in the future. It’s really important we get this right.”