US-Backed Forces Close In 01/24 06:51
BEIRUT (AP) -- U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters began closing in Monday
on the last wing of a prison in northeastern Syria that has been controlled by
militants for days, the force and a war monitor said. The raid aims to end one
of the most brazen attacks by the Islamic State group in years.
Farhad Shami, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said
forces are deploying with the prison facility and taking over buildings near
the northern wing of the prison, where dozens of IS militants have been holed
up since Thursday. Dozens have been killed in clashes since.
Shami said the force advanced after arresting dozens of militants who were
in buildings nearby.
Journalists at the scene said Kurdish officials have asked them to step away
from the prison vicinity earlier Monday, apparently in anticipation of a
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a buildup of
Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. armored vehicles around the prison earlier
Monday. Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Observatory, said SDF and
accompanying forces took over buildings near the northern wing after combing
the area and after about 30 IS militants surrendered.
Eyewitnesses in Hasskeh said buses arrived to the prison, apparently to
transport those who handed themselves in. Coalition helicopters were hovering
overhead, a Hassakeh resident said.
Late Sunday, the Kurdish-led administration announced a weeklong curfew in
Hassakeh starting Monday. Hundreds of city residents have fled the fighting.
The standoff followed the bold assault on the Gweiran prison in Hassakeh
city Thursday. Militants rammed vehicles through its walls, enabling a number
of militants to escape and hold hostages. Clashes have continued for days,
including with militants holed up in adjacent residential areas. The U.S-led
coalition carried out a number of strikes on suspected militants, who had taken
control of the northern wing of the prison.
On Sunday, Shami said the militants were using hundreds of minors detained
in Gweiran as human shields.
Abdurrahman said scores of minors, some as young as 15, had been moved to
another prison facility to the south soon after the assault began.
More than 3,000 suspected IS militants, including over 600 minors, are held
in Gweiran, the largest of a dozen detention facilities in Syria housing
The SDF said about 27 of its fighters were killed in the assault.
Abdurrahman, of the Observatory, put the figure at 52, adding that about 100
militants were killed. The SDF said about 100 escaped and were arrested by the
total number of fugitives is still not clear.
The SDF is running nearly a dozen facilities in northeastern Syria housing
thousands of suspected IS militants, including foreigners, following the defeat
of the extremists in 2019. The Kurdish-led administration has said the
facilities were a strain on its resources and had appealed for countries to
repatriate their nationals.
Thousands of IS family members and supporters are also held in displacement
camps, in what amounts to detention facilities mostly for women and children.