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Five Islamic State prisoners escape due to Turkish shelling, say Syrian Kurds

International observers fear a resurgence of IS due to Turkey's operation in northern Syria
People gather at the site of an explosion in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli on 11 October 2019 (AFP)

Five captured members of the Islamic State group escaped from a prison in northeastern Syria after the area was hit with a Turkish shell, said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Friday.

The militants escaped from the Navkur jail, located in the town of Qamishli, where they had been held by the pro-Kurdish SDF.

"Five terrorists escaped from Navkur after shelling struck near the prison," said an SDF official, according to AFP.

A prison guard at Navkur had told AFP before the reported breakout that the facility housed mostly foreign militants.

Turkey and its Syrian proxies on Wednesday launched a deadly cross-border military offensive against areas controlled by the SDF, a group largely comprised of the pro-Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG), who Turkey regard as a terrorist group.

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The attack has resulted in artillery fire striking near a number of critical facilities, including some of the prisons where thousands of IS suspects are being held.

Death toll mounts as thousands flee Turkish bombardment in Syria
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Without the support of US troops, who pulled back from the border earlier this week, pro-Kurdish fighters have redeployed from other areas in a bid to hold off Turkish-backed forces.

Another SDF official said the Jerkin facility, another nearby prison, had also come under regular Turkish fire, increasing the chances of a breakout there too.

The prospect of mass breakouts is causing deep concern among many foreign powers, who fear the return of IS fighters and the resurgence of the militant group in the region.

According to the pro-Kurdish administration, some 12,000 men are held in seven detention centres across Kurdish-controlled areas.

Among them are Syrians and Iraqis, as well as 2,500 to 3,000 suspected IS fighters from 54 other countries.

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