HASAKA, Syria – The boy has dark brown hair covered with a layer of white dust, and on his chin are hairs that are beginning to grow shaggy.
On Sunday, his and another young man’s bodies were found lying on a dirt road behind a prison in northeastern Syria where a Kurdish-led force, backed by the US military, is located. , fought for more than a week to defeat the plot of the Islamic State. warriors to free the veterans held there.
The discovery of the bodies was the first confirmation that at least two of the maximum 700 male teenagers who have been held in prison because they are the children of ISIS fighters, killed in the fighting.
The leader of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which runs the prison, acknowledged on Monday that “a very small number” of the boys had been killed.
“Some escaped with the adults,” the commander, known by guerrillas Mazlum Kobani, said in an interview, his first since the siege began. “They were raised or were killed.”
Some were taken hostage during the prison siege, according to the SDF
A more complete account of the ISIS prison siege and the efforts by Kurdish-led militias and US forces to bring it down, comes Monday, a day after the Civilian Forces Syria’s master, or SDF, regain full control of Sinaa prison in the city of Hasaka.
About 500 people were killed, 374 of them linked to ISIS, the SDF said. The death toll also included about 40 SDF fighters, 77 prison staff and guards, and four civilians.
The group also said that ISIS fighters who attacked the prison used the bedroom to support the attack, and that the prison attack was part of a larger plot to attack the giant prison camps in the country. The same area holds tens of thousands of people. residents, most of them the wives and children of ISIS fighters, and the city of Raqqa, once the de facto capital of the so-called caliphate of the Islamic State.
The boys were held at the Hasaka prison for three years as the international community debated what to do with them.
Consequences of the civil war in Syria
After a decade of fighting, many Syrians wonder if the country can ever come together again.
The SDF says its ties to Islamic State make them dangerous and that some of the elderly may have been trained to fight, while human rights groups see them as victims, children sent to the Islamic State without a choice of their own.
Both groups appealed to the boys’ home country to repatriate them.
Kobani, the SDF commander, said he had been asking the international community to build rehabilitation centers in his impoverished area for three years. Without better facilities or unless their country takes them back, there is nowhere but prison to put them, he said.
The bodies of two boys were seen by The New York Times on Sunday lying on a dirt road along with the remains of four other bodies, all fragmented. All appear to have been shot.
One of them still wears socks made from the gray blankets used at the prison. Pieces of orange prison uniforms were scattered nearby.
Some neighborhood boys kicked dead bodies as they passed, to show the deep hatred that many residents of the area harbor towards ISIS.
Neighboring residents said the boys were among a group of escaped prisoners, mostly Iraqis, who were killed by the SDF on Friday as their troops went door-to-door hunting down the militants. IS.
“Poor children, they turned them into soldiers,” said one neighbor, who did not want to be named out of fear for the girl’s safety. “We wish they would take them away.”
It is unclear whether the boys managed to escape with ISIS fighters or are still being held hostage by them. Some residents said they did not see the boys or the escaped prisoners alive and did not know if anyone was armed.
Mr. Kobani said that all the boys were trained as ISIS fighters, an assertion disputed by human rights groups. And he said the boys ranged in age from 15 to 17. Other SDF officials said the boys were only 12 years old.
He also appeared shocked by a Times report on Sunday that at least 80 bodies had been dumped from a truck ahead onto the street and then shoveled into a gravel truck to be taken to a house. mass grave.
“This is my first time hearing about it,” Mr. Kobani said. “If this happens, it’s a sin.”
The US-led military coalition in northeastern Syria, which inquired about the boys killed and their bodies discarded, called it “an unfortunate reality” of the war.
“The SDF used suitable lethal force to counter the attack and quell the revolt of the captives,” the coalition said in a statement. “They try to negotiate total surrender, and use the force necessary to respond to hostile actions.”
“Although the images witnessed by The New York Times are disturbing,” the statement added, “they are an unfortunate reality in armed conflict where there are significant casualties and measures must be taken. taken to limit the spread of the disease.”
The streets around the prison were filled with the rubble of destroyed houses as security forces used bulldozers and armored fighting vehicles to destroy IS fighters and escaped prisoners who refused to surrender. Residents said they had seen armored vehicles with American flags participating in the operation.
The prison attack drew US forces and became the largest battle between US troops and IS in the three years since the group lost the last remnants of its so-called caliphate, a swathe of territory. extensively in Syria and Iraq. The United States has been conducting air strikes and providing intelligence and ground troops on Bradley fighting vehicles to support the SDF efforts.
Abu Jassim, another resident who lives in the rear area of the prison, said he returned to his home on Friday and found four escaped inmates wearing their prison uniforms.
“They said ‘Come in and sit down. Do you know us? ”, he recounted. “I said ‘You are the Islamic State’. They said, “Sit down and don’t interfere.”
Abu Jassim said two of the escaped prisoners were from Iraq while another was from Chechnya. They told him not to be afraid and that they would leave when it got dark. He persuaded them to let him out of the house.
He reported their presence to the SDF, who arrived shortly after by bulldozer.
“They started banging on the wall until the house fell over,” he said.
Their four bodies were later seen on the street near the bodies of the two boys.
The SDF said that based on seized ISIS documents and the confessions of captured ISIS leaders, it had determined that the attack on the prison was part of a much larger scheme. If successful, the SDF said, the group would attack surrounding residential areas, Raqqa and the vast Al Hol detention camp, which holds an estimated 60,000 family members of ISIS fighters.
Al Hol, about 40 miles from Hasaka, is the main detention center set up to house the families of ISIS fighters detained after the fall of the caliphate three years ago.
SDF factions provide security both outside and inside of the camp, but there aren’t enough guards to counter the growing ISIS activity there, including frequent killings. Mr. Kobani said that he had requested additional US and coalition support to ensure the security of al-Hol and other detention camps and prisons.
Both the camp and the prison are located in an isolated and impoverished separatist region in northeastern Syria. The SDF has struggled to maintain control over both and has long warned that it cannot protect them safely.
Among the camp’s residents were several thousand foreign women and children whose homeland refused to allow them to return. They lived in unsanitary conditions and children died there from malnutrition and lack of medical care.
A resident living near the prison, a Syrian government employee named Hassoun, said armed groups of IS fighters stormed his home on Friday morning and again later that night.
Hassoun, who asked to be identified solely out of concern for his safety, said the gunmen took his phone, flipped through it to see if he was a member of the security forces. security or not. All of the fighters are Iraqi, he said.
“They complain about the Internet – they say ‘the Internet in Syria is very slow,'” Hassoun said.
At one point, he said, one of the gunmen opened the door to inspect the street and said, “There’s a dead infidel.”
It was one of Hassoun’s neighbors, shot dead by ISIS fighters after they found a photograph of him in an SDF uniform during his mandatory military service. Relatives identified him as 20-year-old Ghassan Awaf al-Anezi.
“It was horrifying,” Hassoun said. “I was just praying for the sun to rise.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/31/world/middleeast/syria-prison-isis-boys.html ‘Poor children’: Bodies of 2 young people found near Syrian prison where 500 people died