Four ISIS brides have touched down in Australia after being repatriated from a camp in Syria.
Their Emirates flight left Dubai before arriving at Sydney Airport at 6.20am on Saturday morning, ahead of schedule.
The women were joined by their 13 children after being removed from the al-Roj camp near the Iraqi border in an operation involving Australian officials and the Syrian Democratic Forces.
There was a heavy police presence at the airport as the ISIS brides arrived and they are now expected to be taken to secure hotels to rest.
They will then debriefed by authorities before returning to the community and extended families as authorities mull over whether to charge any of them.
One of the returning families is Mariam Dabboussy and her three children. Her father, Kamalle Dabboussy from Sydney, has been a vocal supporter for Australians in the Syria camp.
Kamalle Dabboussy with his daughter Mariam Dabboussy (right) and her daughters Aisha (left) and Fatema in al-Hawl camp in north-eastern Syria. She is one of the ISIS brides who returned to Australia today
Shayma Assaad (pictured) was 15 when she moved to Syria from Australia with her parents, and later married Mohammed Noor Masri, 26. She and her four children are also believed to have now returned to Sydney
The women and children were removed from the al-Roj camp near the Iraqi border in an operation involving Australian officials and the Syrian Democratic Forces. They are now in Sydney
Bankstown-born Dabboussy previously said she was tricked into entering Syria in mid-2015 by her terrorist husband Kaled Zahab, who died shortly after they arrived.
Shayma Assaad, 22, and her four children are also believed to have returned to Sydney on Saturday, according to the Australian.
She was taken to Syria when she was just 15 and married to an older Islamic State member, Sydney tradie Mohammed Noor Masri, who remains in jail in Syria.
In a statement, the women said: ‘We are deeply thankful to be back home in Australia with our children.
‘We want to express our regret for the trouble and hurt we have caused, especially to our families. We are willing to do whatever is asked of us by the government authorities to ensure the safety of our families and the Australian community and we will fully cooperate with all Australian law enforcement agencies.
‘Once our children have received medical treatment, are healthy, and are ready, we want to see them lead a normal and safe life in Australia, surrounded by friends and family. We also want to be able to contribute to the Australian community and are grateful for the opportunity to do so.
‘Together with our children, we have been through a terrible ordeal over many years. We ask for space, privacy and time to heal and reconnect with our loved ones in Australia.’
Reacting to the return of his daughter, Kamalle Dabboussy said: ‘It has been an overwhelming and joyous day.
‘I have just come from seeing my daughter and grandchildren. They have had a long journey getting home and they are tired but they are well. Jetlagged. The kids are opening presents and toys. I just wanted to say thank you.
‘I walked into the room that they were staying in, in a secure location and I looked around and there were two children sleeping on the couch.
‘I wanted to know where she was and then she jumped up from behind and grabbed me. She played it up as well and there were hugs and tears. It is hard to put in words exactly how to you felt at that point in time but intense joy.
‘They have been cooperating with authorities from Syria, when they were taken to Iraq they cooperated with authorities and on their way over they have been cooperating with authorities. They have been cooperating all the way through.
‘Clearly these women, to my knowledge are not a concern to Australia at all.
Earlier this month, the Albanese government confirmed a rescue plan to bring home 16 women and 42 children who are families of IS members from the camp
The women and children were removed from the al-Roj camp near the Iraqi border in an operation involving Australian officials and the Syrian Democratic Forces
Aussie intelligence agencies believe that leaving Australians in squalid camps may present more of a threat to national security than bringing them back, as their plight could be used to recruit more Australian Muslims to join terror organisations
‘In my personal view, these women and children have been thoroughly assessed by agencies and are not a threat to the community. It was recommended that they come home, that they are not a threat and the best way for their future and for the future of Australia is for them to be here.
‘I think it would be an ongoing process. Even if they are released into our care soon I am sure the investigations and the work will continue.’
They are the first Australians from ISIS to be repatriated from the Middle East since eight children and grandchildren of dead fighters in 2019.
Earlier this month, the Albanese government confirmed a rescue plan to bring home 16 women and 42 children who are families of IS members from the camp.
The first people removed were assessed as the most vulnerable of those being held.
The federal government worked with Kurdish authorities on the extraction, which reportedly included DNA testing the individuals to prove they were Australian citizens.
Most of the children were born in Syria, meaning they’ll be seeing Australia for the first time.
Aussie intelligence agencies believe that leaving Australians in squalid camps may present more of a threat to national security than bringing them back, as their plight could be used to recruit more Australian Muslims to join terror organisations.
It is understood all of those brought home will be subject to intensive monitoring by security agencies and some will face terror charges as it was illegal for many at the time to travel to Syria and Iraq.
Save the Children CEO Mat Tinkler hailed the repatriation and said the children had been given hope.
‘We look forward to welcoming them home,’ he said.
‘We highly commend the Australian government for following through on its promise to repatriate these innocent children and their mothers.
‘They have given these children hope for their futures and rightly backed the robustness of Australia’s national security, judicial and resettlement systems to support their safe integration into Australian society.’
He said there were still more than 30 Australian children stuck in the camps in northeast Syria and urged the government to repatriate them as quickly as possible.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil refused to comment, citing sensitivity issues.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton warned the extractions were not in the national interest, claiming the rescues could inflame the risk of terrorism in Australia.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the safety of Australians was always paramount and the government would continue to act on national security advice.
‘We will always act in a way that keeps Australians safe.’
Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo declined to comment on the repatriation or confirm it was occurring.
But a Senate estimates committee was told the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was looking at whether media reporting of the rescue breached national security.
‘Given the seriousness of the potential harm to national security … we were involved in discussions about the referral,’ Mr Pezzullo said.
‘Operational secrecy is to be preserved at all times.’
Mr Pezzullo confirmed there were still Australian women and children in Syrian camps and that ASIO and other agencies kept ‘constantly under review’ the ability to physically access the camps.
Who is Mariam Dabboussy?
Mariam Dabboussy was not a devout Muslim but her life changed at 22 when she married Kaled Zahab (pictured)
Mariam Dabboussy was not a devout Muslim, but her life changed at age 22 when she married Kaled Zahab.
The woman, who had been a childcare and migrant support worker in Sydney, went to the Middle East in mid-2015 with her husband and their 18-month-old child.
Ms Dabboussy travelled to Lebanon with her husband only to be ‘tricked’ into going to Syria, she said.
‘It started off as a normal holiday,’ Ms Dabboussy said.
‘My husband had never left the country at the time. So, it was the first time he had agreed to take me overseas.
‘We had a really nice holiday planned. We went to Malaysia, took me to Dubai, we went to Lebanon.’
Ms Dabboussy was initially taken from Lebanon to a house in southern Turkey near the Syria border.
From there, she was driven to a dusty patch of land.
‘There was other people there and there was… there was a man there,’ she said.
‘And he started telling us, ”Run before they shoot, Run before they start shooting.” And we didn’t know what was going on.
‘I looked around, I’m thinking, ”What am I going to do?” I’m in the middle of nowhere, I don’t even know where I am. There’s gunshots. Now I just started running.’
She didn’t get far, with men bundling her into a car and taking her to a house, which had a black Islamic State flag.
‘When I entered that house and I saw a flag, I saw a flag and I sort of asked around,’ Ms Dabboussy said.
‘Some women, they spoke very broken Arabic, they didn’t really speak. They were sort of surprised I didn’t know what was going on. Some of them laughed at me.’
The man Ms Dabboussy married is now dead, after being killed by a coalition airstrike three months later.
The mother-of-three has since been forced to remarry twice more.