Kurdish officials in northeastern Syria said on Sunday about 785 foreign prisoners linked to the Islamic State escaped from a “displacement camp” in Ain Issa after “mercenaries” attacked the area with “air cover from Turkish warplanes.”
“The mercenaries and the Turkish troops attacked the camp earlier and gave a corridor for foreign ISIS members to attack the camp security guards and escape successfully,” the statement said, as reported by the Kurdish Rudaw news service.
A spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia claimed that “almost all suspected ISIS militants fled the camp.”
Rudaw reported a car bombing near another detention facility, the Geweran prison in Hasaka, where “thousands of ISIS prisoners” are held according to the SDF.
“Five militants also escaped a prison in Qamishli on Friday. The SDF blamed Turkish shelling for the security breach,” the report added.
Reuters reported on Monday that Syrian government troops are deploying to Ain Issa, which is on the frontlines of the Turkish invasion.
The facility in Ain Issa is not technically a prison, but more along the lines of a well-guarded refugee camp. The UK Independent said on Sunday that most of the 785 escapees were “ISIS-affiliated women and children.” The Irish Sun speculated one of them might have been Lisa Smith, an Irish national living at the camp with her daughter.
“Other than Kurdish sources, there was no other independent verification for the claim that hundreds of Isis members had fled Ain al-Issa,” the Independent wrote.
President Donald Trump addressed the reports of escaping ISIS prisoners in a string of Twitter posts on Monday morning.
“Europe had a chance to get their ISIS prisoners, but didn’t want the cost. ‘Let the USA pay,’ they said. Kurds may be releasing some to get us involved,” said Trump.
Trump said any escapees would be “easily recaptured by Turkey or European nations from where many came, but they should move quickly.”