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CBS News finds multiple ISIS members in a Kurdish prison who claim to be American and want to go home
Image Source: CBS News video screenshot

CBS News finds multiple ISIS members in a Kurdish prison who claim to be American and want to go home

One was unrepentant but still insisted on returning home to Chicago

When a CBS News reporter visited a Syrian prison, crowded with captured members of ISIS, she found that several of them claimed to be Americans who had joined ISIS for misguided reasons.

What happened?

The prison in the northeastern part of Syria is run by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed militia group made up mostly Kurdish fighters. The SDF and other rebel groups have been fighting ISIS and the Syrian dictatorship for years.

In addition, the Kurds live under a constant threat of imminent attack from the Turkish government, which views them as terrorists. Some of these Turkish attacks have forced the Kurds to pull their forces back from fighting ISIS in order to safeguard their homes and families.

The Kurds have been holding captured Islamic State fighters in prisons but are running out of space. According to CBS News, this particular prison holds roughly 5,000 prisoners. Overall, the SDF is holding about 12,000 ISIS prisoners. Nearly half of these prisoners are thought to have traveled to Syria to join ISIS from other nations.

In many cases, the countries from which these fighters claim to have come do not want to deal with these former ISIS fighters returning and, in most cases, having to be imprisoned. The SDF has asked these countries to, at the very least, help fund the cost of maintaining the prisons.

Prisoner says he's from Chicago

When he was questioned by CBS News foreign correspondent Holly Williams, prisoner and accused ISIS fighter Lirim Sylejmani told her he was from Chicago.

"The choices that I made, in somebody's eyes, the wrong choices, so I face jail time," he told Williams.

He also said that he "just wanted to live under Islamic law" and did not think he had done anything wrong. He added that he wanted to return to the United States, even though he knew that he would likely be put in prison there as well.

In another case, a 7-year-old prisoner who claimed to be from New York City told Williams that he had been brought to join ISIS by his parents.

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