Teenage inmates found among 500 dead in Syria prison attack

HASAKA, Syria – The boy had dark brown hair covered in white dust and on his chin was the wispy beginnings of a beard. On Sunday, his b...


HASAKA, Syria – The boy had dark brown hair covered in white dust and on his chin was the wispy beginnings of a beard.

On Sunday, his body and that of another youth were found lying on a dirt road behind the prison in northeast Syria where a Kurdish-led force, backed by the US military, fought for more than a week to put down an attempt by the Islamic State. activists to free veterans held there.

The discovery of the bodies was the first confirmation that at least two of up to 700 teenagers, who had been detained in the prison because they were the children of ISIS fighters, were killed in the fighting.

The head of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which ran the prison, acknowledged on Monday that “a very small number” of boys had been killed.

“Some escaped with the adults,” the commander, known by his nom de guerre Mazlum Kobani, said in an interview, his first since the siege began. “They were arrested again or were killed.”

Some had been held hostage during the prison siege, according to the SDF

A fuller account of the Islamic State prison siege and the efforts of the Kurdish-led militia and US forces to suppress it, was released on Monday, a day after the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF , regained full control of Sinaa prison in the city of Hasaka.

About 500 people were killed, including 374 linked to IS, the SDF said. The death toll also included around 40 SDF fighters, 77 prison staff and guards, and four civilians.

The group also said that the Islamic State fighters who attacked the prison used sleeper cells to aid in the attack, and that the storming of the prison was part of a larger plot to also attack. the giant detention camps in the same region that house tens of thousands of people. people, mostly wives and children of IS fighters, and the city of Raqqa, once the de facto capital of the so-called Islamic State caliphate.

The boys had been held in Hasaka prison for three years as the international community debated what to do with them.

The SDF said their ties to Islamic State made them dangerous, and some of the older ones may have been trained to fight, while human rights organizations see them as victims, victims. children brought to the Islamic State without any choice on their part.

Both groups have called for the boys’ countries of origin to repatriate them.

Mr. Kobani, the SDF commander, said he had been asking the international community for three years to build rehabilitation centers in his impoverished region. Without better facilities or unless their countries take them back, he said, there was no place other than prison to put them.

The bodies of the two boys seen by The New York Times on Sunday lay on a dirt road with the remains of four other corpses, all dismembered. All appeared to have been shot.

One of them was still wearing socks made from the gray blankets used in the prison. Fragments of orange prison uniforms were strewn nearby.

Some of the neighborhood boys kicked dead bodies as they passed, in a display of the deep hatred that many residents of this area harbor towards IS.

Neighborhood residents said the boys were part of a group of escaped detainees, mostly Iraqis, who were killed by the SDF on Friday as their troops went door to door hunting down ISIS fighters. Islamic State.

“Poor children, they turned them into soldiers,” said a neighbor who did not give her name for fear for her safety. “We wish they would remove them.”

It was unclear if the boys had sought to escape with IS fighters or if they were still being held hostage by them. Several residents said they had not seen the boys or the escaped inmates alive and did not know if they were armed.

Mr Kobani said all the boys were trained Islamic State fighters, a claim disputed by human rights groups. And he said the boys were 15 to 17 years old. Human rights defenders said the boys were only 12 years old.

He also appeared shocked by a report in The Times on Sunday that at least 80 bodies were thrown from a front-end loader onto the street and then shoveled into a gravel truck to be taken to a mass grave.

“It’s the first time I’ve heard of it,” Kobani said. “If that happened, it’s a sin.”

The US-led military coalition in northeast Syria, when asked about dead boys and abandoned bodies, called both an “unfortunate reality” in wartime.

“The SDF used the appropriate amount of lethal force to counter the attack and suppress the uprising by detainees,” the coalition said in a statement. “Time and time again they attempted to negotiate full surrender and used whatever force was necessary to respond to hostile actions.”

“Although the images witnessed by The New York Times are disturbing,” the statement added, “they are a sad reality in armed conflicts where there are significant casualties and where measures must be taken to limit the spread. illnesses”.

The streets around the prison were littered with rubble of houses destroyed by security forces who used armored bulldozers and combat vehicles to kill IS fighters and escaped prisoners who refused to surrender. Residents said they saw armored vehicles displaying American flags taking part in the operations.

The prison attack drew in US forces and turned into the biggest battle between the US military and ISIS in the three years since the group lost the last vestige of its so- called caliphate, a large swath of territory in Syria and Iraq. The United States conducted airstrikes and provided intelligence and ground troops in Bradley Fighting Vehicles to support the SDF efforts.

Abu Jassim, another resident who lived in the neighborhood behind the prison, said he returned home on Friday to find four escaped inmates there wearing their prison uniforms.

“They said ‘Come in and sit down. Do you know us?’” he said. “I said ‘You are the Islamic State’. They said ‘Sit down and don’t interfere.’

Two of the escaped prisoners were from Iraq while another was from Chechnya, Abu Jassim said. They told him not to be afraid and that they would leave when it got dark. He persuaded them to let him leave the house.

He reported their presence to the FDS, who arrived soon after with bulldozers.

“They started hitting the walls until the house collapsed,” he said.

Their four bodies were those later seen on the street near those of the two boys.

The SDF said that based on seized ISIS documents and confessions from captured ISIS leaders, it determined that the attack on the prison was part of a much larger plan. If successful, according to the SDF, the group would have attacked the surrounding neighborhoods, Raqqa, and the sprawling Al Hol detention camp which houses around 60,000 family members of IS fighters.

Al Hol, about 40 miles from Hasaka, is the main detention camp set up to house the families of Islamic State fighters detained after the fall of the caliphate three years ago.

SDF factions secure both the outside and inside of the camp, but do not have enough guards to combat growing ISIS activity there, including frequent killings. Kobani said he had asked for more support from the United States and the coalition to secure al-Hol and other detention camps and prisons.

The camp and prison are in an isolated and impoverished breakaway region in northeast Syria. The SDF are struggling to keep control of the two and have long warned they cannot keep them safe.

Among the camp residents are several thousand foreign women and children whose countries of origin have refused to allow them to return. They live in unsanitary conditions and children have died there from malnutrition and lack of medical care.

A resident living near the prison, a Syrian government employee named Hassoun, said groups of armed Islamic State fighters broke into his home on Friday morning and again overnight.

Hassoun, who asked to be identified by his first name only out of fear for his safety, said the gunmen took his phone, flipping through it to see if he was a member of the security forces. All the militants were Iraqis, he said.

“They were complaining about the internet – they said ‘Syrian internet is slow’,” Hassoun said.

At one point, he said, one of the gunmen opened the door to check the street and said, “There is a dead infidel.

He was one of Hassoun’s neighbors, shot dead by ISIS fighters after they found a photo of him in an SDF uniform during compulsory military service. Relatives identified him as Ghassan Awaf al-Anezi, 20.

“It was awful,” Hassoun said. “I was just praying for the sun to come up.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Teenage inmates found among 500 dead in Syria prison attack
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