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Syria: Bodies of SDF fighters recovered after Hasakah prison Islamic State clashes

US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces recovered the bodies of 18 of their fighters during a sweep of the prison on Friday
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) outside Ghwayran prison in Syria's northeastern city of Hasakeh, 26 January 2022 (AFP)

Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria have recovered the bodies of 18 of their fighters from inside the Hasakeh prison attacked by the Islamic State (IS) group last week, a war monitor reported. 

During a sweep on Friday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by Kurdish internal security forces, “found the corpses of 18 fellow fighters killed by jihadists,” the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. 

The SDF said on Wednesday that they had recaptured the prison complex in the city of Hasakeh after an IS jailbreak attempt on January 20 ignited days of clashes inside the facility and the surrounding areas. 

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The war monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria, reported that an overnight air strike near the jail, carried out by the US-led coalition fighting IS, killed seven of the group's fighters.

Kurdish forces have said that dozens of IS militants remain holed up in the Ghwayran prison, as clean up operations are still underway.

An SDF official has told AFP that around 60 IS fighters were in the basement and the ground floor above it. 

The official added on the condition of anonymity that “we believe there are no minors among them.”

Those that remain inside the facility have barricaded themselves in “cellars that are difficult to target with air strikes or infiltrate on the ground”, the Observatory said.

Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman added that those holding out were staunch IS followers and that Kurdish forces “are looking to starve jihadists into surrendering.”

According to the SDF official, the militants have been given a deadline to surrender, and if no progress is made, they will be dealt with firmly.

The events at the Ghawayran prison were the most high-profile IS attack since they lost their “caliphate” nearly three years ago. 

The Observatory has found that since January 20, the death toll during the clashes is over 260, including around 180 IS militants, 73 members of Kurdish-led forces and seven civilians. 

According to the SDF, nearly 3,500 inmates and IS attackers have surrendered to its forces since the start of the operations to recapture the prison.