It is the largest IS military action in Syria since the end of the caliphate. According to the SDF, the Kurdish-led force that controls the prison and the surrounding area, the terrorists used at least 200 fighters, including suicide squads, in the attack. They hold people hostage and use others as human shields.
This complicates the SDF operation, which is supported by the international coalition against IS. The force says it has somewhat regained control in the detention center, but this is denied by other sources. There would still be heavy fighting, especially in the north of the camp.
In addition, many terrorists hide in the neighborhoods around the prison, from where they try to free the thousands of IS prisoners with targeted attacks. The local population has fled en masse. IS claims that 800 extremists have escaped in recent days. The SDF is said to have re-arrested ‘several hundreds’.
The Kurds blame some of the chaos on Western countries that refuse to take back their IS fighters. The SDF is struggling to control the many detention camps in northern Syria, which are increasingly acting as new hotbeds of terror.
More than 90 murders were committed last year in the infamous Al-Hol camp alone, where mostly women and children of IS fighters are imprisoned. The detainees have even set up a religious police force to enforce extremist norms and values.
The SDF is holding some 12,000 IS fighters in northern Syria. That they are mostly Iraqis and Syrians, but also several thousand from abroad. A ticking time bomb.
Islamic State has a long history of prison breakouts. The organization was formed in an American prison camp and during its advance in Iraq in 2014 it managed to liberate many (potential) supporters. In that country, the terror army carried out a major attack last week that killed 11 soldiers. The US ended its campaign against IS in Iraq last year, even though the extremists said they carried out more than 1,100 attacks. In Syria, there were nearly 400 in 2021, but none as spectacular as the attack on the Al-Hasaka prison.