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Donald Trump threatens to 'release Isil fighters at Europe's borders' if home countries don't take them back

Ben Riley-Smith
The US has been pushing the UK for months to take back its foreign fighters - REX

Donald Trump has threatened to release captured Islamic State fighters at European borders unless the countries they initially fled from take them back. 

The US president said it would be too expensive to hold all the jihadists in Guantanamo Bay, the American detention base in Cuba.

Mr Trump did not explicitly name Britain - he did name France and Germany - but America has been pushing the UK for months to take back its foreign fighters. 

It is estimated that around 10 Isil fighters who fled from Britain are currently being held by the Syrian Democratic Forces. 

"We're asking the countries from which they came, from Europe, we're asking them to take back these prisoners of war," Mr Trump said. "And they can try them, do what they want."

He added: “At some point, I'm going to have to say, 'I'm sorry, but you either take them back or we're going to let them go at your border.” 

Mr Trump repeated the warning, saying: "We've done Europe a tremendous favour. If they don't take them back, we're going to probably put them at the border and then they'll have to capture them again."

The UK government has refused to take back fighters who fled Britain to join Isil in Syria and Iraq, much to the frustration of the US. 

British government ministers have argued that they may not face successful prosecution back in the UK and want to see them face justice in the Middle East. 

Some of those who joined Isil have been stripped of their British citizenship. 

It seems unlikely that Mr Trump would actually follow through on his threat, given the security implications and the practicalities involved. But it reflects the level of frustration in the White House with the European position. 

What will happen to the two most infamous captured Isil fighters from the UK, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, remains to be seen. Both men are accused of being part of the notorious ‘Beatles’ Isil group.

The US and UK governments want to try them in American courts, where they could face execution, but that decision is being challenged in the British courts. The UK Supreme Court is yet to make a ruling. 

Mr Trump, once a vocal supporter of Guantanamo Bay, has in recent days appeared to balk at the cost involved in taking in scores of new Isil prisoners. 

The president said yesterday: “The United States is not going to have thousands and thousands of people that we've captured stationed at Guantanamo Bay, held captive at Guantanamo Bay, for the next 50 years and us spending billions and billions of dollars.” 

The comments came after New York Times analysis found that it has cost America $13 million to keep each prisoner in Guantanamo. There are currently 40 inmates. 

Mr Trump earlier this week responded to the report, saying: “I think it’s crazy. It costs a fortune to operate, and I think it’s crazy.”

Pressure on European countries to take back their Isil fighters had been intense at the start of the year but has lessened since Mr Trump scrapped his total US troop withdrawal from Syria.