BEIRUT, LEBANON (AP) — According to a Kurdish official, US-backed Kurdish-led troops searched near a Syrian prison on Friday for Islamic State militants and issued an ultimatum to dozens of armed extremists holed up in a tiny section of the facility to surrender or face an all-out attack.
According to Siamand Ali, a spokesman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, around a half-dozen IS members surrendered Friday morning, amid hundreds of militants sheltering in a basement in the prison’s northern wing.
He did neither confirm or refute a claim by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based opposition war monitor, that SDF forces found the remains of 18 of their colleagues on Friday inside Gweiran jail, also known as al-Sinaa prison, in northeast Syria.
The Islamic State’s attack on the jail on Jan. 20 was the terrorist group’s largest military operation since the fall of their self-declared caliphate in 2019. It occurred after IS terrorists carried out devastating strikes in both Syria and Iraq, raising worries of a return.
The city of Hassakeh has been converted into a combat zone following a week-long assault on one of Syria’s major prison facilities. The city was blocked off and a curfew was enforced by the Kurdish-led authority, preventing passage in and out.
Thousands of civilians have been displaced in Hassakeh as a result of the conflict in recent days.
The SDF claimed full control of the jail on Wednesday, a week after dozens of militants overran the institution. The attackers let some people go, but they also kidnapped hostages, including children, and battled with SDF soldiers, killing scores of people.
The SDF claimed that between 60 and 90 militants were holed up in the prison’s northern side.
The militants, according to Ali, are hiding in the basement of a two-story structure, with those who remain inside refusing to surrender. “Our soldiers are encircling the structure, attempting to persuade them to surrender,” he explained.
“We set a deadline for them, and we’re besieging them,” Ali stated over the phone from Hassakeh. For security considerations, he declined to reveal when the ultimatum ends and the attack begins.
According to the Observatory, SDF fighters are wagering that as their food supplies diminish, more time will compel IS troops to surrender.
The Hawar News Agency, ANHA, an online Kurdish news agency, said that the IS fighters who surrendered Friday had six automatic weapons, a rocket-propelled grenade, and hand grenades confiscated. SDF forces are searching the jail as well as various Hassakeh areas for IS sleeper cells, according to the statement.
Since the SDF launched its assault to seize the prison’s northern wing three days ago, roughly 3,000 detainees had surrendered, according to the SDF.
At least 300 international children are said to be kept in the Gweiran detention centre. Thousands more, largely children under the age of 12, are being imprisoned in sealed camps with their moms in different regions of northeastern Syria on suspicion of being IS members’ families. Only 25 out of 60 nations have agreed to return their children, some of whom have been separated from their mothers.
Over 260 people have died as a result of the conflict, according to the Britain-based Observatory, including over 180 terrorists and more than 73 combatants from the Kurdish-led army. According to the Observatory, at least seven people were killed in the conflict. According to preliminary reports, 35 people have died in the SDF.