ANKARA, TURKEY -- Turkey has deported 11 French nationals who are suspected of being members of the Islamic State group, the Interior Ministry said Monday.
A brief ministry statement said 11 "foreign terrorist fighters" were returned to their home country.
It didn't provide details or identify the suspects. The French Foreign Ministry declined to offer details on the returning citizens, which it described in a statement titled “terrorist fighters,” including how many were children.
Last month, Turkey stepped up the return of suspected foreign IS members — either held in Turkish prisons or in Syria — back to their countries of origin, saying Turkey was "not a hotel" for foreign fighters.
While Turkey has quietly deported suspected jihadis for years, it raised the issue more forcefully after Western nations refused to back its invasion of northeastern Syria and its offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Ankara considers terrorists linked to Kurdish insurgents fighting inside Turkey. Many countries have voiced concerns that the Turkish incursion would lead to a resurgence of IS.
Monday's deportations raised the number of such foreign fighters expelled from Turkey since Nov. 11 to 71, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported, including citizens of the United States, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. At least 18 suspects were returned to Germany, the agency reported.
The Interior Ministry said Sunday that an Australian national accused of being a foreign terrorist fighter was also deported.
Turkey has been accused of enabling the influx of thousands of foreign IS sympathizers into Syria over the years. At the height of the extremist group's power, the Turkish border crossings were the main route for those hoping to join IS in Syria. Turkey has denied the accusations and later stepped up security at its borders, including by profiling possible IS fighters at airports and building a wall along parts of its porous border.