ISIS Prisoners Riot in NE Syria Jail, Some Escape

ISIS inmates, held in a major prison in northeastern Syria run by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), rioted on Sunday, with some managing to escape, said SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali.

The prisoners wrestled control from guards on an entire floor in the facility, he said. North Press Agency, a media platform operating in the Kurdish-administered areas, said at least four ISIS militants escaped, quoting a security official inside the prison known as Geweran.

One unnamed and masked member of the anti-terrorism force told reporters in Hassakeh late Sunday that the prisoners smashed walls between their cells while some managed to smash a wall leading to the outside, enabling them to escape. He said the numbers are still unclear.

The SDF mounted an operation to capture those who fled as security forces sent reinforcements to crush the mutiny in Hassakeh prison, Bali added in a tweet.

“The situation is tense inside the prison currently and we sent anti-terror forces and additional troops to control the situation,” he said.

Earlier, Syrian state television said 12 militants had fled from the prison toward the southern outskirts of Hassakeh.

A US led coalition spokesman confirmed a riot had taken place, adding the facility held only low level ISIS members.

“The coalition is assisting our Syrian Democratic Forces partners with aerial surveillance as they quell an uprising at Hassakeh detention facility,” US-led coalition spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III said in a tweet.

Arab tribal figures in touch with residents in the area said US coalition planes were seen flying overhead in the vicinity of the prison following the incident.

There were unconfirmed reports that several inmates had been killed in the uprising, the latest of several recent attempts to flee from SDF prisons, according to residents.

It was not clear how many inmates were in the prison, one of several where the SDF has kept thousands of detainees, many of whose relatives say are young children and others arrested on flimsy charges or for disobeying the SDF’s policy of forcible conscription.

Bali said so far there is no connection between the riot and fears of the fast-spreading, new coronavirus. There are concerns over an outbreak of the virus inside overcrowded prison facilities in Syria and elsewhere in the region. But so far there are no reports of infection in Kurdish-administered northeastern Syria or in any detention facilities.

“Riots often break out in prisons. But this time the scale of the riot is large,” Bali said in a text message to the Associated Press.

US-based Human Rights Watch says the SDF holds about 12,000 men and boys suspected of ISIS affiliation, including 2,000 to 4,000 foreigners from almost 50 countries.

The inmates are held in overcrowded prisons where conditions are inhumane in many cases, according to Human Rights Watch and other rights groups.

The Kurdish-led forces also hold about 100,000 Syrian and foreign women and children who are family members of militant suspects in squalid camps across the areas they control.

With crucial US air and ground support, the SDF defeated the extremists across north and east Syria. ISIS has resorted to guerrilla attacks since losing its last significant piece of territory in Syria last year.

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