Hundreds of imprisoned Islamic State militants have reportedly escaped from prisons in Syria after American President Donald Trump ordered U.S. troops to move out of the area, allowing Turkey to launch an attack against Kurdish forces that experts say now threatens to allow the Islamic State to regroup in the area.
Not long after Trump announced last week that American troops would leave an area in northern Syria in order to allow Turkey to launch its military operation, experts warned that it would lead to attacks on America’s Kurdish allies and likely force the Kurds to abandon the network of prisons where Islamic State militants were being held. That prediction now appears to have come true, as Al Jazeera reported that hundreds of Islamic State detainees have escaped from a camp in northeastern Syria.
“The suspected affiliates of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant… fled the detention facility in Ain Issa on Sunday after attacking guards and storming its gates, the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria said in a statement,” the report noted.
Kurdish forces have reportedly turned their focus on defending against the Turkish attacks, calling on the United States and the international community for help in protecting civilians under bombardment there. In doing so, the Kurds are feared to be abandoning prisons where captured Islamic State militants have been held since the Kurdish-led campaign nearly wiped out the Islamist militant group.
These Islamic State militants have reportedly already begun to regroup, and The New York Times reported that the Islamic State flag has been raised in a part of northern Syria where the group may have already regained control.
There have also been reports of atrocities committed by Turkish-backed militant groups, with a video that appears to show militants executing Kurdish soldiers and a Kurdish politician and activist. Another video shows children who have been killed in Turkish-led bombing campaigns or as their families attempt to flee the ongoing attacks.
We spoke now with Jelal Ayaf, co-chair of Ayn Issa camp. He told us:
– 859 people successfully escaped from the foreigners section, a few others could be recaptured
– Sleeper cells emerged from inside 'open' IDP section, carrying out attacks, situation in camp very volatile pic.twitter.com/GKa1TV7NIJ
— Rojava Information Center (@RojavaIC) October 13, 2019
Though the initial statement from the White House said that American forces would be allowing Turkey to launch its military operation, Donald Trump now appears to have given in to criticism and announced that he was considering endorsing a package of sanctions aimed at America’s NATO ally.
At the same time, Trump appears to be giving way even more to allow the Turkish attack. A report Sunday from Reuters said that the United States was planning to withdraw close to 1,000 troops from northern Syria after Turkey shared plans to extend its attacks against Kurdish groups further south than it had originally planned.