US allies regain control of a prison in Syria and subjugate ISIS fighters

HASAKA, Syria — Kurdish-led forces regained full control of a prison in northeastern Syria on Sunday after a battle that spilled over t...


HASAKA, Syria —

Kurdish-led forces regained full control of a prison in northeastern Syria on Sunday after a battle that spilled over to surrounding neighborhoods in the most intense urban combat involving US soldiers in Iraq or Syria. Syria since the fall of the self-proclaimed Islamic State caliphate in 2019.

“We announce the end of the combing campaign in al-Sinaa prison in the Ghweran neighborhood of Hasaka and the end of the last pockets in which the mercenaries of the Islamic State were locked up,” the Syrian Democratic Forces said. , a Kurdish militia, in a statement.

The US Special Operations Joint Task Force said the militia emptied the prison of “active enemy combatants” and was carrying out recovery operations to ensure the area was completely safe. He said the detainees were being moved to a more secure site.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, US partners in the fight against the Islamic State, did not say whether the last remaining gunmen in the prison had surrendered since Saturday or if they had been killed. SDF officials said on Saturday that the gunmen were suspected of holding teenage detainees hostage.

Fighting over the past week has spilled over into Hasaka’s residential areas near the prison.

Reporters from the New York Times saw several dozen bodies, some dressed in orange prison jumpsuits, carried away by Kurdish militiamen near the prison this weekend, an indication of the scale of the fighting in recent days.

On Sunday, clearing operations continued in the Ghweran neighborhood around the prison to find ISIS sleeper cells. The day before, Kurdish-led counterterrorism forces backed by US special operations troops went house to house through the narrow lanes of the predominantly Arab quarter of the city.

Kurdish forces threw flash grenades into homes where they believed Islamic State fighters were hiding as residents gathered in the streets.

The latest round of fighting began this month after an ISIS attack on the prison, which housed more than 3,000 ISIS operatives and nearly 700 minors.

On Saturday, the Syrian Democratic Forces said around 30 Islamic State fighters surrendered overnight, but the remaining militants in the prison were believed to be holding teenage inmates as human shields.

“We think there are caliphate bears with them,” said Farhad Shami, an SDF spokesman, referring to children forced by ISIS to become fighters.

The Kurdish militia has released conflicting information about the siege. On Wednesday, he said he regained control of the prison after the United States launched airstrikes and sent in armored fighting vehicles to help retake it. On Thursday, it was clear that fighting with armed men barricaded in prison buildings was continuing.

On Saturday, there were growing signs that the battle was much fiercer than originally announced.

On the outskirts of the Ghweran neighborhood, New York Times reporters saw what appeared to be at least 80 bodies being transported in a small truck from the prison and dumped in a heap on the road. Kurdish fighters lifted them one by one into the shovel of a yellow front-end loader, which moved them into a 40ft gravel truck to be taken away for burial.

While some bodies wore prison jumpsuits, others were dressed in civilian clothes, as is also common among those detained at the site. Almost all the corpses were intact and without blood, many faces and bodies black with soot.

A distraught fighter yelled at a Times photographer not to take pictures.

“We know it’s not right, but there are so many,” he said.

Hasaka, in the breakaway Kurdish-ruled region of Rojava, is surrounded by hostile Syrian forces and Turkish-backed troops occupying northwest Syria.

The region is grappling with existential security threats, a lack of infrastructure and near financial collapse. Foreign countries have refused to repatriate IS fighters and their families, leaving Rojava to become a haven for the remnants of IS’s self-declared caliphate, including thousands of accused fighters and tens of thousands of members of their family.

The local administration in Rojava has long warned that it does not have the resources or the capacity to run secure prisons and detention camps.

The US maintains around 700 troops in Rojava as part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State. But until the prison siege, US forces were mostly conducting relatively routine missions that avoided the Russian military presence in the same area.

The SDF said on Saturday that 13 of its fighters were killed taking over the prison and securing the area, although the figure is likely higher. It did not release figures on the number of detainees killed in the fighting.

A US-led coalition official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly said it would take time to work out how many fighters of ISIS had been killed.

SDF officials said detainees under the age of 18 had been moved to a new location. The miners were brought to Syria as young children with their parents.

An official of the YPG, the main Kurdish faction, said most of the Islamic State fighters who were still barricaded in the prison surrendered on Friday evening after Kurdish-led forces stormed the building.

“They told us they were surrendering, then they came out one by one and put their weapons on the ground,” YPG media director Siyamend Ali said. He said some had put on suicide belts.

Hasaka has been in custody since the January 20 prison break. Shops are closed and makeshift shelters house families displaced by the fighting. In some areas, there has been no electricity or running water for more than a week.

In the Ghweran neighborhood on Saturday, a group of men and boys stood in an alleyway down the street in front of American and Kurdish armored vehicles.

“It’s an incredibly bad situation,” said a worker who would only be identified by his first name, Mohammad, because he was afraid to talk about the Islamic State. “The neighborhood has not yet been cleaned up properly and ISIS is using the rooftops to jump from house to house.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: US allies regain control of a prison in Syria and subjugate ISIS fighters
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