ISIS has exploited the chaos of Turkey’s invasion of Syria to seize control of a prison camp where tens of thousands of wives and children of jihadist fighters are being held.
The Kurdish forces who were guarding the al-Hol camp have been distracted by the Turkish offensive and hundreds of guards have been pulled away.
The remaining guards have been attacked and had petrol poured over them, while the body of a 10-year-old child was found in a backpack, guards told a Times journalist who visited the camp.
On top of that, fears of an ISIS breakout were compounded yesterday when a top U.S. official said more than 100 jihadists had already escaped in Syria.
Inmates: Women and children at the al-Hol camp in northern Syria last week where ISIS have seized control amid the chaos of Turkey’s invasion
One al-Hol administrator, Aylul Rizgar, said she feared ISIS would ‘cut my head off and put it on a pole’ if the terrorists regained the initiative in Syria.
As inmates heard about the Turkish invasion, they began attacking guard posts and hurling rocks at security patrols, she said.
At one point she was attacked by a woman and her two daughters – one of whom sank her teeth into her arm before the other girl poured a can of fuel over her.
On another occasion, a woman’s dismembered body was found hidden and her 10-year-old son had been sent to the camp’s orphanage.
Female ISIS members at the camp have also turned one of their tents into a court administering the group’s harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
Last month, a 16-year-old girl was found guilty of apostasy and then stabbed repeatedly with knives.
Kurdish guards evacuated her to a clinic where she later died, according to the commander of a Kurdish police force.
Earlier this month police stormed a tent and rescued two women who had been sentenced to die and were about to be stabbed to death.
ISIS supporters had fought back with knives and pistols when the Kurdish guards stormed in.
Under guard: Kurdish police accompany women at the camp in northern Syria last week
‘Foreign women are trying to impose religious classes on all women in the camp,’ the commander said.
The camp is also reliant on international aid, and food is sometimes scarce and the water used for drinking and cleaning is contaminated.
It is home to some 71,400 people, mostly wives, widows and children of IS fighters, it is believed.
Most of the detainees at al-Hol are Syrian and Iraqi women and children.
Separate detention camps in Syria are believed to be holding more than 10,000 militants, including some 2,000 foreign fighters.
Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who remains at large, called on his supporters last month to attack the camps and set the detainees free.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) previously warned they would not be able to spare the forces to guard al-Hol once Turkey invaded.
Trump’s critics have voiced fears of an ISIS breakout and revival ever since the President ordered U.S. forces out of Syria earlier this month.
The camp (pictured) is home to some 71,400 people, mostly wives, widows and children of IS fighters, it is believed
A top U.S. State Department official told Congress yesterday that more than 100 ISIS prisoners have escaped in Syria in the chaos since Turkey’s invasion.
James Jeffrey, Washington’s special envoy for Syria, said the number is ‘now over 100’ and said: ‘We do not know where they are’.
His claims undermined Donald Trump’s assertion yesterday that captured ISIS prisoners had been ‘secured’ under a deal between Russia and Turkey.
However, Trump quickly insisted that some of the escaped prisoners had already been recaptured.
Trump said he expects Turkey to ‘abide by its commitment’ to act as a ‘back-up to the Kurds.’
‘Should something happen, Turkey is there to grab them,’ he said.
The U.S. has indicated that some of its withdrawn troops may stay in western Iraq to continue the fight against ISIS.
More than 100 ISIS prisoners have escaped in Syria in the chaos since Turkey’s invasion, top U.S. State Department official James Jeffrey (pictured) said today
But Iraq appeared to throw those plans into disarray this week by saying the Americans had no permission to stay there.
Yesterday the Iraqi PM confirmed that position, saying Baghdad was taking ‘all international legal measures’.
The Pentagon is now considering keeping a small U.S. force in north-eastern Syria to protect oilfields and Trump indicated today that a few troops would remain there.
‘We have secured the oil and, therefore, a small number of US troops will remain in the area where they have the oil,’ the President said.
The United States currently has 5,200 troops posted in Iraq, deployed as part of a Washington-led coalition against the ISIS jihadists.
The U.S. presence at several bases across Iraq is already controversial, with numerous political groups and pro-Iran Shiite armed groups demanding their expulsion.