Kurdish officials in Syria on Thursday accused the invading Turkish army of shelling the Chirkin prison, which is filled with captive Islamic State jihadis from 60 different countries.
The Turkish government did not immediately respond to the allegation.
“These attacks on prisons holding ISIS terrorists will lead to a catastrophe the consequences of which the world may not be able to handle later on,” said a statement from Kurdish authorities, alluding to their warnings that Turkey’s invasion will leave them unable to properly garrison the prisons, resulting in mass Islamic State jailbreaks.
A spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) described Chirkin as “the place where the most dangerous jihadists are held.” The Kurds denounced Turkey’s shelling of the prison as “a clear attempt” to help the prisoners escape.
Turkish airstrikes and artillery bombardments were reported at several locations in the border region on Wednesday and Thursday, suggesting a warning from the Pentagon has not dissuaded the Turks from sending warplanes into Syrian airspace.
The city of Qamishli, where the Chirkin prison is located, was among the locations hit by airstrikes, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a longtime monitor of the Syrian civil war.
The UK Guardian on Thursday reported some 60,000 women and children will be released from al-Hawl, the largest ISIS prison camp in Syrian Kurdish territory. Some of the women are described as dangerous extremists in their own right, not merely passive ISIS brides:
Radicalized women, including some who have been accused of killing other prisoners they say are not adhering to Isis’s strict ideology, believe Isis sleeper cells in the area will attack the Kurdish guards and free those inside in the next two days, a woman who has been held alongside them said via WhatsApp message.
“They know the Turkish campaign has begun,” the woman said. “After living in this horrible place for months they are ready to take this opportunity to break out.”
The U.S. removed at least two exceptionally dangerous ISIS operatives from Syria before the Turkish invasion began. El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, the two surviving members of a cell known as the “ISIS Beatles,” were evacuated from Syria to Iraq “in case the Kurds or Turkey lose control,” as President Donald Trump put it.
The U.S. reportedly plans to bring them to Virginia, which allows the death penalty, to stand trial even though they were British nationals before they were stripped of their citizenship.