Ten children and six mothers held in a prison camp for jihadists in Syria have been deported to Belgium.
It is the largest repatriation of suspected Islamic State (IS) members since the group’s collapse in 2019.
Hundreds of European children, including women, who traveled to Syria to join IS, are stranded in Kurdish-run camps in northern Syria.
Many European countries have not allowed them to return, but Belgium wants to bring back young children.
Three mothers and seven children have turned down an offer to return to Belgium.
After returning from the camp in Rose, north-eastern Syria, the mothers are expected to be arrested and charged by counter-terrorism authorities, while the children are looked after.
Prime Minister Alexander de Cru announced in March that Belgium would do “everything” to bring back those in camps under the age of 12. He said it was important to consider his “well-being”.
Concerned about the security risk, some European governments have been reluctant to repatriate their citizens from the camps.
The case of British schoolgirl Shamima Begum, who joined IS in 2015 and was later stripped of her UK citizenship on security grounds, is a prime example.
But human rights groups have urged governments to take back their citizens, arguing that leaving women and children in the camps puts them at risk of disease and bigotry.