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Suspected Islamic State members escape SDF-run prison in Syria

Activist group and Kurdish sources say members of IS led the uprising and that search for escapees has begun
Men suspected of belonging to Islamic State group look through opening of prison cell door in northeast Syrian city of Hasakah last October (AFP)

Prisoners at a jail in Syria run by Kurdish forces rioted and some escaped on Sunday, according to Kurdish sources and an activist group. The prison holds suspected Islamic State (IS) members.

A senior official of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) running Ghouiran prison in the northeast Syria city of Hassakeh acknowledged that an uprising had taken place.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP that IS members in the prison had revolted.

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"Some of them managed to get out into the prison courtyard," the official added. "Security forces are on high alert. International coalition planes are flying over the prison and the region."

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has an extensive network of contacts inside Syria, said at least four prisoners had escaped.

Members of IS had led the uprising and a search had started for those who had escaped, it added.

 The EN24 website said that Ghouiran prison has almost 5,000 inmates “of different nationalities” who are suspected belonging to IS.

'Huge price'

Top former US and UK national security officials warned last September that conditions at detention camps in Syria and Iraq were ripe for an IS resurgence, and called on Western governments to repatriate and prosecute their citizens to avoid paying “a huge price” later, MEE reported at the time.

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. Only low-level prisoners were kept at the jail, he said.

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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 IS in Syria, Kurdish forces are still holding about 12,000 suspected IS fighters in the northeast of the country, according to their own figures.

They include Syrians, Iraqis and between 2,500 and 3,000 foreign nationals from about 50 countries.

While the Kurds 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 repatriate their nationals.