Isis prisoners smash through cell walls in attempt to escape Syrian jail

Bel Trew
A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stands guard in a prison where men suspected to be affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) group are jailed in northeast Syria in the city of Hasakeh: Getty

Isis militants broke through internal walls of a prison in northeastern Syria, seized an entire floor, and attempted to escape, according to Kurdish-led forces.

Officials within the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said that foreign fighters mutinied on Sunday, managing to remove inside doors and knock holes through walls of their cells. The SDF then deployed additional troops to wrest back control of the facility.

The prison facility, a former school located in the Geweran district of Hassakeh city in Kurdish-controlled north Syria, is believed to holding nearly 5000 people, a mix of Syrian and foreigners.

The nationalities of those involved in the attempted prison break are not known.

North Press Agency, a media platform operating in the Kurdish-administered areas, initially reported that at least four Isis militants had escaped, quoting a security official. SDF forces themselves at first confirmed some had managed to break free.

SDF commander Mervan Qamishlo later told The Independent no prisoner had escaped adding the anti-terrorism force had surrounded the entire complex.

“The security forces and the SDF are still surrounding all of the area in a widespread deployment. The militants still control one of the floors.”

“This is not the first time there has been a riot, but it is certainly the largest,” he added. ​

Qamishlo said that the SDF did not believe the demands of the rioters were related to the spread of the coronavirus. He said the SDF was struggling to maintain control of the Isis detention facilities across the north of the country.

“Our biggest concern is that we will not able to manage all the prisons, given the big numbers of the prisoners, and the low capacity of the security forces.”

Mustafa Bali, the SDF spokesman, later said that prisoners managed to remove doors to their cells and smash holes through the wall allowing them to control of one of the jail’s lower floors.

He said that no one managed to escape and that the SDF had taken back control of the prison.

Kurdish authorities run more than two dozen detention facilities across northeastern Syria, holding about 10,000 Isis fighters.

Among the detainees are some 2,000 foreigners, including about 800 Europeans.

The Kurdish-led forces, backed by the US-led coalition, declared victory against Isis last year after seizing control of the last pocket of land the militants controlled in southeast Syria.

Since then the Kurdish authorities have begged countries to repatriate their nationals, saying they do not have the resources to control thousands of detainees crammed into often makeshift facilities.

There are now concerns if coronavirus reaches northeastern Syria, they will not be able to halt the spread within the prisons or camps where families of Isis militants and Isis supporters are held.

The largest one houses nearly 70,000 women and children, many of them foreigners.

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