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Syria: Kurdish forces hunt down Islamic State fighters after deadly prison operation

The Syrian Democratic Forces are securing the last IS holdouts at Hasakah prison after recapturing the area
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) deploy outside Ghwayran prison in Hasakeh on 26 January 2022 (AFP)

Sweep operations and information gathering are ongoing in Hasakah’s al-Sinaa prison in Syria, after Kurdish-led forces recaptured the last Islamic State (IS) holdouts, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) media centre said on Thursday.

The SDF took back control of the prison on Wednesday and have been conducting thorough searches and military clearing operations in the prison dormitories where IS attackers barricaded themselves during the fighting.

Fighting began when IS militants rammed two vehicles packed with explosives into the facility on Thursday, in one of the boldest assaults by the group in the region in recent years. The clashes have reportedly left hundreds dead.

Syria: SDF says it has retaken Hasakah prison from Islamic State fighters
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"Through a precise operation, we were able to reach these blocs and surround IS militants who were using these minors as human shields, which is one of the reasons behind the delay of our operation," SDF spokesman Farhad Shami told Middle East Eye on Wednesday.

The minors, Shami said, are aged between 10 and 17, and "have been trained on the jihadi ideology", though some were undergoing a rehabilitation programme.

Earlier on Wednesday, the SDF media centre said the number of “terrorists forced to surrender has risen to about 1,000”. It added that large-scale sweeping operations were being carried out in many areas of Hasakah, Deir Ezzor and Raqqa provinces.

The prison held more than 3,500 suspected IS members, who organised a mutiny to support the outside attackers.

SDF forces uncovered “camouflaged terrorist enclaves” in the northern dormitories where between 60 and 90 IS militants have barricaded themselves.

“Our forces have made a call for safe surrender to these terrorists,” said an SDF statement, “and in case they did not surrender, we will deal with them firmly."

The SDF said on Sunday that it had killed more than 175 IS fighters while at least 39 Kurdish fighters, including prison guards and counter-terrorism forces, were killed inside and outside the prison.