Over 130 die in Syria fighting between IS, Kurdish men

Published January 24, 2022
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces mount a search for fighters of the militant Islamic State group in Hasake, Syria, in this screen grab taken from a video clip.—Reuters
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces mount a search for fighters of the militant Islamic State group in Hasake, Syria, in this screen grab taken from a video clip.—Reuters

HASAKEH: Fighting raged in Syria for a fourth day on Sunday between US-backed Kurdish forces and fighters of the militant Islamic State (IS) group who have attacked a prison, killing 136 people including civilians, a war monitor said.

More than 100 insurgents late on Thursday attacked the Kurdish-run Ghwayran jail in Hasakeh city to free fellow jihadists, in the most significant IS operation since its self-declared caliphate was defeated in Syria nearly three years ago.

Intense fighting since then has seen the militants free detainees and seize weapons stored at the jail, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in what experts see as a bold IS attempt to regroup.

“At least 84 IS members and 45 Kurdish fighters, including internal security forces, prison guards and counter-terrorism forces, have been killed” inside and outside the prison since the start of the attack, the Observatory said.

Seven civilians have also died in the fighting in the northeastern city, it added.

The battles continued on Sunday as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by coalition strikes, closed in on jihadist targets inside and outside the facility.

The SDF said in a statement its forces sealed off the area around the jail and that “IS fighters located within the gates of the prison can no longer escape”.

According to the Observatory, the SDF have secured most of the area and much of the facility itself with the exception of some cell blocks where holdout jihadists have yet to surrender.

A correspondent in the city’s Ghwayran neighbourhood reported the sound of heavy shelling in areas immediately surrounding the jail, which houses at least 3,500 suspected IS members.

The SDF deployed heavily in areas around the prison where they carried out combing operations and used loudspeakers to call on holdout jihadists to surrender, the correspondent said.

IS fighters “are entering homes and killing people”, said a civilian in his thirties who was fleeing on foot. “It was a miracle that we made it out,” he said, carrying an infant wrapped in a wool blanket.

“The situation is still very bad. After four days, violent clashes are still ongoing.”

IS has carried out regular attacks against Kurdish and government targets in Syria since the rump of its once-sprawling proto-state was overrun in March 2019.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2022

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