|Kurdish fighter Irbil, Iraq|
BAGHDAD — Kurdish special forces have rescued a 16-year-old Swedish girl from Islamic State militants near the Iraqi city of Mosul, Kurdish authorities said Tuesday.
The operation, which took place Feb. 17, came after Sweden requested assistance in finding and freeing the girl.
She will be transferred to Swedish authorities to return home “once necessary arrangements” are made, the semi-autonomous Kurdish region’s security council said in a statement.
Some 300 Swedes have left to join extremist groups in Iraq and Syria over the past three years, according to Sweden’s security agency. Recruiters often prey on teenagers, grooming them online or in the community.
The girl was “misled” and lured to Syria by an Islamic State member in Sweden, before later travelling to Mosul, the Kurdish statement said.
She was the same teenager that Swedish press reports said had gone missing in Syria after running away from her foster home with her 19-year-old boyfriend last year, according to a Kurdish security official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the information.
Swedish press reports said the girl, then 15, disappeared from Boras, near Gothenburg, on May 31, and was six months pregnant at the time. The Kurdish statement, however, gave no mention of a baby.
The girl told her family that she was married in an Islamic ceremony to her boyfriend and they had joined the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.
However, the couple was captured by the Islamic State in northern Aleppo in August, the family said.
Her mother told Sweden’s Expressen newspaper that the Islamic State had not recognized the couple’s marriage and separated them. She talked to her family after being loaned a cell phone, the newspaper said. It is unclear how she ended up near Mosul, in neighboring Iraq.
The rescue was a purely Kurdish operation, the Kurdish security official said.
In October, Kurdish and U.S. special forces carried out a joint raid near the Iraqi town of Hawijah, freeing 69 prisoners but failing to find Kurdish soldiers they hoped to rescue.