Islamic State prisoners on Sunday seized control of the ground floor of a major prison in northeastern Syria run by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), with some of the militants managing to escape, said Kurdish sources and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A senior member of the (SDF) running Ghouiran prison in the north-east Syria city of Hassakeh acknowledged that an uprising had taken place.
The official, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP that ISIS members in the prison had revolted and that “some of them managed to get out into the prison courtyard,” the source added.
“Security forces are on high alert. International coalition planes are flying over the prison and the region.”
Coalition military spokesman Colonel Myles Caggins III said: “The Coalition is assisting our Syrian Democratic Forces partners with aerial surveillance as they quell an insurrection” at the prison but added that only low-level prisoners were kept at the jail.
The London-based Observatory, which has an extensive network of contacts inside Syria, said at least four people had escaped from the prison.
Members of ISIS had led the uprising and a search has started for those who had escaped, it added.
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali, posting on Twitter, said prisoners had broken walls and torn off internal doors.
“The situation is still tense inside the prison,” he said, adding that reinforcements were on the way to try to regain control.
A year after having declared victory against the ISIS in Syria, Kurdish forces are still holding around 12,000 ISIS fighters in the north-east of the country, according to their own figures.
They include Syrians, Iraqis and between 2,500 and 3,000 foreign nationals from some 50 countries.
While they have called on those countries to take back their nationals, they are also resigned to the prospect of putting them on trial, given the reluctance of several western governments have their nationals repatriated.
It was not clear how many inmates were in the prison, one of several where the SDF has kept thousands of detainees, many of whose relatives say are young children and others arrested on flimsy charges or for disobeying the SDF’s policy of forcible conscription.
The inmates are held in overcrowded prisons where conditions are inhumane in many cases, according to Human Rights Watch and other rights groups. (Source: The Straits Times)