Families of ISIS fighters kept locked up at the notorious Al-Hol prison camp in Syria have started riots in an attempt to escape, their Kurdish guards have said.
Dozens of camp prisoners attacked an exit gate before Kurdish security regained control, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said, while describing the situation as ‘critical’.
Video taken at the camp – where British ISIS bride Shamima Begum is among the detainees – shows panic as guards go running towards a group of burqa-clad women, who then sprint in the opposite direction.
It comes amid a Turkish invasion of Syria and attacks on the Kurds, which commanders warned would likely lead to thousands of ISIS prisoners escaping as soldiers are diverted from the camps to defend their territory.
Video taken at the Al-Hol prison camp in Syria on Friday shows panicked guards sprinting toward a group of burqa-clad women who then go sprinting in the opposite direction, as Kurdish guards say riots are underway as inmates try to escape
The camp is home to some 70,000 people – mainly ISIS wives and their children. Among them are 11,000 foreigners, including Briton Shamima Begum (pictured)
Turkey moved into Syria after Donald Trump told President Erdogan that he was withdrawing US troops, effectively abandoning the Kurds who helped lead the fight against ISIS.
Al-Hol is the largest prison camp in Syria and holds some 70,000 people, largely wives and children of ISIS fighters. Some 11,000 of the prisoners are foreign-born.
British jihadi bride Shamima Begum – who fled east London to join ISIS in 2015 and has since begged to be allowed to come home – was once kept at the camp.
It was here that she gave birth to a son who has since died of pneumonia. It is thought she is still at the camp.
Security at the camp was notoriously poor even before the invasion, with a boy reportedly stabbed to death by ISIS brides and a riot put down by gunfire last week.
Médecins Sans Frontières said it has been forced to suspend aid supplies to the camp because of the conflict, which will likely make the situation worse.
Further to the north, the Kurds have also warned that two camps and a prison holding ISIS fighters have come under direct attack from Turkish forces in what they described as a deliberate attempt to free the detainees.
Kurdish forces had warned that thousands of ISIS prisoners are at risk of escaping from prison camps as guards are diverted to fight off a Turkish invasion
Security at the camp was notoriously lax even before Kurdish forces were withdrawn, with riots common (pictured above)
Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said a camp sheltering more than 7,000 displaced people at Mabrouka, close to the Turkish border, is to be evacuated.
Talks are underway about moving a second camp for 13,000 people, including around 800 relatives of Islamic State fighters, at Ain Issa, further inland.
The Kurds say both have been hit by shelling in recent days.
‘Discussion is underway with the relevant bodies and organisation to find a solution or alternative location to move the camp to,’ the SDF said.
It comes a day after the al-Chirkin prison, in the town of Qamishli, was also struck by shelling.
Explosions had damaged Chirkin prison where jihadi militants from some 60 countries are being kept, Kurdish jailers said.
‘These attacks on prisons holding Daesh (ISIS) terrorists will lead to a catastrophe the consequences of which the world may not be able to handle later on,’ the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said in a statement.
Turkish armoured vehicles along the Turkish side of the border as they prepare to take part in an offensive against Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria today
Pro-Turkish Syrian fighters gather along the Turkish side of the border as they prepare to roll into northern Syria in armoured trucks on Friday
Clouds of smoke rise from a settlement in northern Syria on Thursday as seen from across the border in Ceylanpinar, in Sanliurfa, Turkey
Mustafa Bali, spokesman for Kurdish forces in northern Syria, added that Chirkin prison is where ‘the most dangerous jihadists’ are held.
Critics of Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops and hand regional security over to Turkey – made during a routine call with Erdogan on Sunday – have said it will likely lead to a resurgence of ISIS.
Erdogan has said his forces will fight ‘terrorism’ in the region including ISIS, observers say the Kurds will be his primary target.
Trump has defended his decision to withdraw from northern Syria and abandon America’s Kurdish allies because ‘they didn’t help us with Normandy’.
The President insisted that he likes the Kurds but added that they had been acting in their own self-interest in battling ISIS and it was time for them to fight alone.
Trump also suggested that he isn’t worried about ISIS fighters being held by the Kurds escaping because ‘they’ll go back to Europe.’
‘That’s where they want to go, they want to go back to their homes, but Europe didn’t want them’ he said on Wednesday night.
‘For months we could have given it to them, they could have had trials, they could have done whatever they wanted, but as usual it’s not reciprocal.
‘That’s all I want, I don’t want an edge I just want reciprocal… It’s not a fair deal for the United States.’
Smoke rises over Qamishli after it was struck by Turkish shells. Kurdish forces say al-Chirkin prison, where ISIS fighters are held, was deliberately targeted in an attempt to free them