ISIS Claims it Freed Hundreds of Militants in Syria Jailbreak

Syrian activists dispute precisely how many jihadis were broken out of prison by the assault on Ghuwayran last week, but it's likely that hundreds were freed.
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The incident is the biggest in years. PHOTO: AFP via Getty Images

ISIS revealed that its militants smashed open a prison holding thousands of jihadists by repeatedly reversing a pickup truck into the complex’s walls before releasing hundreds of its men.

The jailbreak marks the biggest incident in northeastern Syria since the fall of ISIS’s so-called caliphate three years ago. 102 ISIS members, 45 members of the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, and 7 civilians are reported to have died in the clashes, according to the London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

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ISIS released a video showing their men breaking into the prison in the Ghuwayran neighbourhood in Hasakah on its Amaq news channel on Telegram on Saturday. 

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The region has been put into lockdown for seven days. PHOTO: AFP via Getty Images

ISIS’s propaganda machine claimed that the group has freed over 800 jihadis, and killed more than 200 SDF fighters in the clashes. 

The footage showed a pickup truck reversing and smashing into the concrete wall, breaking into a section on the south side of the prison complex.

The militants could be heard crying  “Allahu Akbar” with every blow.  

Vehicles used by the SDF burst into flames, and images from the scene show smoke billowing above the compound.

The clashes between the SDF and ISIS militants have been ongoing since Thursday night, and the US-led coalition forces in the country have provided air cover and carried out a strike on the prison compound.

The SDF released statements on Sunday saying that an ISIS militant initially attacked the compound by blowing up a vehicle, before setting the prison’s petrol supply on fire and taking the prison’s catering staff hostage.

The ISIS video, which runs for around two minutes, shows the chaos inside the prison, where masked ISIS members opened up to the cells. It also shows a pile of dead bodies that the militants claim are SDF guards killed in riots inside the prison. 

According to the statements released by the SDF, the attack was carried out by 200 ISIS fighters, who planned the raid for over six months. In the chaos, the militants also managed to seize the prison’s weapons cache. 

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On Monday, the SDF announced that their security forces had managed to enter the prison complex, but there are thousands stuck inside, including 700 minors described as “ISIS cubs” - a term used for children of ISIS fighters held in a separate section of the jail. 

The Kurdish forces have claimed that ISIS militants are using the minors as a “human shield” in the face of their advance to take back control of the compound. 

Several similar videos taken from the surrounding of the prison complex showed a coordinated attack on the prison.

The SDF has claimed that their security forces have recaptured over a hundred ISIS militants, including foreign nationals, with few still on the run. The prison holds nearly 3,500 suspected ISIS members. 

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, some 300-400 ISIS fighters managed to flee the prison, but the Kurdish forces have yet to confirm the number of escapees. 

The intense clashes have forced locals who live near the jail to flee the mayhem that unfolded. Around 4,000 people have left their homes, and a seven-day curfew was announced by the Kurdish authorities on Monday.

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Civilians have been forced to flee. PHOTO: AFP via Getty Images

The Kurdish-led administration has repeatedly urged Western countries to take back their ISIS-supporting nationals detained in Syria, saying it does not have the resources to guard such a large number of dangerous inmates. 

The US State Department released a statement on Saturday echoing that message, saying the attack “underscores the urgent need for countries of origin to repatriate, rehabilitate, reintegrate, and prosecute, where appropriate, their nationals detained in northeast Syria.”