IS militia tries to free captured jihadists

The IS terrorist militia tried to free thousands of imprisoned jihadists in the city of Hasaka. Even one day after the attack began, the Kurdish militias apparently still haven’t got the situation in the prison under control.

Hasaka prison has been a ticking time bomb for years. It is completely overcrowded and only insufficiently secured.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

The attack on Hasaka prison began Thursday with a car bomb detonating near the entrance. Subsequently, fighters from the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) stormed the detention center to free the approximately 3,500 jihadists who are being held there, Syrian activists and representatives of the security forces reported. The attackers fought fierce battles with the units of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which guard the prison housed in a former school.

More than forty inmates, attackers, Kurdish security forces and civilians were killed the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday. The uprising in the prison and fighting in the area continued. Inmates have taken control of weapons and ammunition and dozens of jihadists have fled the prison, the observatory, which gets its information from activists on the ground, said.

The state news agency Sana also reported that the fighting in and around the prison was not over on Friday. SDF spokesman Farhad Sami confirmedthat fighting continued in the vicinity of the prison. However, he claimed that the uprising had been brought under control. The SDF fighters also caught 89 escapees. He had previously reported that inmates had set fire to blankets in support of the attackers.

The SDF militia circulated this photo on Friday, which allegedly shows captured IS fighters after the attack in Hasaka.

The SDF militia circulated this photo on Friday, which allegedly shows captured IS fighters after the attack in Hasaka.


A ticking time bomb

IS fighters only tried to free the prisoners in Hasaka in November, but the attack was repulsed. With almost 3,500 inmates, the prison is the largest prison for jihadists in Syria. In total, the Kurdish-Arab SDF militias have been holding around 10,000 jihadists in makeshift camps and detention centers since defeating IS in March 2019. Most of the men come from Syria, but among them are around 2,000 citizens of Europe and other countries.

Prisons and camps have long been seen as ticking time bombs. For years, the Kurds have been urging the foreign jihadists’ home countries to take back their citizens in vain. Germany, France, Switzerland and most other countries are reluctant to bring dangerous extremists home. So far, the Europeans have flown out only a few women and children from the Al-Hol camp, where some 60,000 ISIS supporters and their families are being held.

According to the Observatory, Thursday’s attack was the deadliest attack on a prison by jihadists to date. It not only confirms the concerns of the Kurds about the prisoners escaping, but also shows how great the danger from IS cells is. In the fall, the American military intelligence agency DIA concerned an increase in IS attacks in Syria. According to Kurdish activists, there were thirteen attacks around the city of Deir al-Zur in October alone.

The fight isn’t over yet

The jihadists are mainly present in the desert south of the Euphrates, but there are also IS cells in the cities, where the extremists still enjoy some support among the Sunni population. Again and again they succeed in raiding convoys of the Syrian army. Almost three years after capturing the last IS bastion in the village of Baghuz on the banks of the Euphrates, the international anti-IS coalition is still flying airstrikes on jihadist hideouts.

In Iraq, too, the extremists are still present underground, as a deadly incident in Diyala province showed. Eleven Iraqi soldiers were killed in an attack on a military base on Friday night. The provincial governor said the attackers were able to flee after the attack. He accused the soldiers of being inattentive. The attack is one in a long line of attacks, kidnappings and attacks that show: the jihadists may have lost their “caliphate”, but they still remain a threat.

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