BEIRUT, Lebanon – After six days of deadly fighting, the Kurdish-led militia that fought Islamic State fighters for control of a prison in northeastern Syria have retaken the facility. on Wednesday, ending one of the jihadist group’s boldest attacks since the demise of its so-called caliphate almost three years ago.
Dozens of militiamen and hundreds of ISIS fighters have been killed since the jihadists entered the Hasaka city prison last week and joined inmates rioting inside to gain control. arrest the prison staff and approx. 700 boys are detained in the facility hostages, militia officials said.
The militia, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, fought ISIS cells in nearby areas and then surrounded the remaining fighters, who had given up today. Wednesday after running out of food and water.
Aram Hanna, an SDF spokesman, said: “The future is clear for them if they don’t surrender. “This area is completely surrounded and completely under the control of our forces. They have no other choice.”
Officials say they are still trying to determine how many of their own fighters and how many ISIS attackers and prisoners have been killed. An SDF spokesman said that at least 30 militia fighters and more than a hundred fighters were killed.
Whether any of the 700 boys – held by IS fighters as human shields during the siege – suffered casualties was also unclear on Wednesday, nor how many prisoners may have escaped. escape in the war.
The fight for prison Unresolved humanitarian and security issues have largely been ignored by the West since the SDF, backed by a US-led military coalition, ousted IS from its last swath of territory in early 2019.
The militia captured the men, women and children who survived the fall of the caliphate and locked them in prisons and detention camps that would last until other countries repatriated their citizens. their people or help find lasting solutions for the rest.
Counterterrorism experts and US officials have long warned that the strikes could pave the way for a new insurgency.
Consequences of the civil war in Syria
After a decade of fighting, many Syrians wonder if the country can ever come together again.
“Makeshift prisons across Syria are the breeding ground for Daesh’s ideology of failure,” Major General John W. Brennan Jr., the coalition commander, said in a statement Wednesday, using the word Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
“This is not a problem only in this city,” he said. “This is a global problem that requires many countries to work together to develop a sustainable long-term solution.”
Hasaka Prison, a converted training academy, is the largest prison run by the SDF and holds thousands of men who were captured when the caliphate fell. Reflecting the international appeal of the Islamic State, they come from countries around the globe and are housed in crowded cells.
No one has been formally charged or appeared before the judge.
The prison also holds about 700 boys whose families joined the Islamic State. SDF officials consider them dangerous, but human rights activists say their detention could violate international law and could also serve to radicalize them – creating a generation of war new jihadist.
During the prison siege, they became hostages, raising fears they could be harmed and further complicating the SDF’s effort to retake the prison.
On Wednesday, Hanna, a spokesman for the SDF, said that no children were injured. Other officials were more uncertain, saying they needed time to find out exactly what happened to the boys.
During the fighting, there were signs that all was not well, including a voice message obtained by Human Rights Watch from an Australian teenager saying his head was bleeding and he was looking found the bodies of children who had been killed.
SDF officials interviewed on Wednesday acknowledged that ISIS has not only taken over part of the prison, as they said during the siege, but has taken over the entire prison complex.
The militants launched their attack on Thursday with two suicide bombs that blew up the entrance, SDF officials said. Nuri Mahmud, a spokesman for Kurdish fighters in the SDF, said a series of armed fighters rushed in, barricaded themselves inside areas with rioting prisoners, clashed with guards and arrested house staff. prisoner hostage.
ISIS cells in the vicinity seized buildings and grain cellars from which they attacked militias moving towards the prison.
As the SDF advanced to the prison, the United States joined the fray, using armored vehicles, attack helicopters, and air strikes.
Over the past two days, SDF forces have besieged four or five buildings where prisoners and attackers refused to surrender, and held prison staff and boys hostage. Forces knew which building the boys were in and did not use heavy weapons nearby, Mr Mahmud said.
“ISIS has tried to take advantage of the youth in prison to a certain extent,” he said. “The forces were careful about that.”
Siyamend Ali, head of the media office of a Kurdish fighting group, said that by Wednesday the besieged fighters had run out of food and water and there was no way to treat those sick or injured in the fighting.
“We told them they could go back to being the way they were, as prisoners,” he said. “In the end, they had no choice but to surrender or they would all die, so they decided to surrender.”
Soon after, SDF officials posted pictures of long lines of tired-looking prisoners in sandals and ragged clothes lining the prison yard after surrendering.
SDF officials said it would take time to determine the final death toll, assess all prisoners and treat the wounded. They say some wards have been so damaged that prisoners will have to move elsewhere.
The prison is located in a predominantly Kurdish area of northeastern Syria, outside the control of the Syrian government in Damascus. Since the US-backed coalition and the SDF pushed ISIS out of the area, it has been run by a special junta affiliated with a militia that operates with broad autonomy but has not yet been authorized to act. any country that recognizes it as an official government.
The United States keeps about 700 troops in northeastern Syria to work with the SDF against ISIS, in addition to a smaller base near the Jordanian border to the south.
SDF officials say the attack on the prison is the clearest sign that Islamic State is far from over, having lost its last piece of territory, the village of Baghuz south of Hasaka.
“We cannot say that ISIS is over,” Ali said. “It is true that we have removed them geographically, but the presence of ISIS continues.”
Hwaida Saad and Asmaa al-Omar contributed reporting.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/26/world/middleeast/syria-isis.html Kurdish-led forces End prison siege in Syria, defeat ISIS fighters