A mutiny broke out in Syria on Sunday in a Kurdish forces prison where people accused of belonging to the Islamic State jihadist group (IS) are held, an NGO and a security official reported, adding that prisoners have escaped.
The head of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition dominated by Kurdish fighters, was unable to give either the number of fugitives or their nationality. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH) spoke of "at least four fugitives".
Late Sunday evening, the situation remained tense in Ghouiran prison, in the town of Hassaké (northeastern Syria) and searches were continuing to catch up with the escapees, said these two sources.
Broken walls and torn doors
The "mutiny" was led by "elements of the Islamic State group," according to the OSDH. According to his information, the prison receives nearly 5,000 detainees "of different nationalities" and accused of belonging to IS.
On his Twitter account, an SDF spokesperson, Mustafa Bali, acknowledged a "mutiny" in which the prisoners "broke walls and tore down interior doors". "The situation is still tense inside the prison (...), the forces are trying to regain control," he said late Sunday evening, referring to the dispatch of reinforcements.
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For his part, the security chief of the SDF, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that "elements of IS had revolted" in the prison. "Some of them were able to go out into the prison yard," said the source. "A number of ISIS elements may have escaped from the prison, search operations are continuing."
Questioned by AFP, a spokesman for the international anti-IS coalition, assured that "members of the lower echelons of IS" are locked up in this prison. "The coalition is assisting its partners in the Syrian Democratic Forces with aerial surveillance as they quell an insurgency" in the prison, said Colonel Myles Caggins III.
About 12,000 jihadists detained by Kurds
A year after proclaiming the eradication of the ISIS "caliphate" in Syria on March 23, 2019, Kurdish forces still detain some 12,000 jihadists in several prisons in northeastern Syria, according to their statistics. There are Syrians, Iraqis but also 2,500 to 3,000 foreigners from around fifty countries.
If the Kurds initially demanded the return to their country of origin of foreign fighters, they were resigned to the idea of having to try them in Syria, faced with the procrastination of Western governments which avoided repatriation.