BEIRUT, Lebanon – After six days of deadly fighting, Kurdish-led militias battling Islamic State fighters for control of a prison in northeastern Syria have regained full control. fully on Wednesday after their forces surrounded the remaining fighters who surrendered, three militia officials said.
“In the end, they had no choice but to surrender or they all died, so they decided to surrender,” said Siyamend Ali, one of the officials.
The reassertion of control by the Kurdish-led militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces, ended one of the boldest attacks by Islamic State fighters since downfall of their so-called caliphate almost three years ago.
The prison, in the city of Hasaka, held thousands of ISIS members arrested when the caliphate disbanded as well as about 700 boys whose families have joined the Islamic State. SDF officials consider them dangerous, but human rights activists say their detention could violate international law and potentially radicalize them, creating a new generation of jihadists .
The United States, leading an international military coalition working with the SDF to fight Islamic State in Syria, supported the Kurdish forces in their prison battle, using armored vehicles, attack helicopters and air raid.
SDF officials acknowledged on Wednesday that instead of taking over only part of the prison, as an SDF spokesman said, militants joined rioting prisoners to take over the entire prison complex. .
The ISIS attack on the prison, an attempt to free the group’s fighters held there, is one of a number of recent military operations that demonstrate it has again become a potential threat in the region.
“This is not an issue unique to this city,” Major General John W. Brennan, Jr., the coalition commander, said in a statement. “This is a global problem that requires many countries to work together to develop a sustainable long-term solution.”
Using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State, he said, “Makeshift prisons across Syria are breeding grounds for Daesh’s failed ideology.”
The militants attacked on Thursday with two suicide car bombs at the entrance. SDF officials said many armed fighters entered the complex, joining prisoners rioting inside and burning plastic and blankets.
ISIS cells in neighboring areas also hit the SDF, so its forces must secure those areas before it can reach the prison.
Over the past two days, SDF forces have imposed a siege on several wards where prisoners and attackers have refused to surrender and are holding prison staff and 700 boys hostage.
By Wednesday, the fighters had run out of food and water and there was no way to heal those injured in the fighting, so they surrendered, said Nuri Mahmud, an SDF official.
SDF officials posted pictures of several men who appeared to be prisoners lined up in the prison yard after surrendering on Wednesday.
They said they were still unable to assess the situation of the boys being held hostage. But their force knew which building the boys were in and did not use heavy weapons nearby.
“ISIS has tried to take advantage of the youth in prison to a certain extent,” said Mahmud. “The forces were careful about that.”
Officials say they are still trying to determine how many of their own fighters and how many ISIS attackers and prisoners have been killed. During the battles, videos circulating on social media showed dead bodies scattered around the prison, and an SDF spokesman said at least 30 SDF fighters and more than a hundred fighters had been killed.
It remains unclear how many prisoners escaped.
The prison is located in a predominantly Kurdish area of northeastern Syria, outside the control of the Syrian government in Damascus. The Kurdish-led SDF fought alongside the United States to help drive IS out of the area in 2019 and has since maintained a broad measure of autonomy there.
The United States still has a base in Hasaka with about 700 troops, and a smaller base near the Jordanian border to the south.
Hwaida Saad and Asmaa al-Omar contribution report.
https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/01/26/world/syria-prison-isis Syria and ISIS News: Live Updates