A senior Kurdish official warned on Thursday that ISIS extremists could break out of prisons in northeast Syria as fighting intensifies between Kurdish-led forces and Turkey.
Badran Jia Kurd told Reuters the number of security forces guarding the militants will dwindle as Turkish forces step up an offensive they launched at the border on Wednesday. US officials have worried ISIS detainees would seize on such an opportunity for a prison break.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold thousands of the militants in prisons and tens of thousands of their relatives in camps, many of them foreigners. With the Kurdish YPG militia at its forefront, the SDF defeated extremists across much of north and east Syria with US air and ground support.
“This attack will definitely reduce and weaken the guarding system for those Daesh militants in the prisons,” Jia Kurd said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
“This could lead to their escape or to behaviors that may get out of the control of the security forces,” added Jia Kurd, adviser to the Kurdish-led authority in the SDF region.
“The number of forces guarding the prisons is reduced the more the battles intensify. This poses a grave danger.”
The SDF says it has 70,000 foreigners in custody from around 60 nationalities, including militants, their wives and children, on top of thousands of detained Syrian and Iraqi fighters.
Kurdish leaders have said they do not have the resources to bear this burden alone, pleading with governments to take their citizens back but most have turned a blind eye. US officials have said as many as around 2,000 of the ISIS e militants in detention are foreigners.
A US official said the US military took custody on Wednesday of two high-profile British ISIS militants that the SDF was holding and moved them out of Syria. The official said the individuals were being held in a secure location but offered no further details.
Turkey’s offensive into northeast Syria kicked off days after US forces withdrew from part of the border, opening up a dangerous new phase in Syria’s more than eight-year-old conflict.
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