IS prison break in Syria sparks days of clashes

IS prison break in Syria sparks days of clashes

Intense fighting is taking place in north-eastern Syria after Islamic State (IS) fighters tried to break inmates out of a Kurdish-run prison.

Kurdish-led forces backed by US air strikes have been battling militants in the city of Hasaka since Thursday.

The assault on Ghwayran prison is one of the group’s most ambitious since its defeat in Syria nearly three years ago.

The overcrowded site houses 3,500 suspected IS members including some of its leaders, a monitoring group says.

Hundreds of jihadists have been recaptured since the breakout but some are still on the run, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Kurdish security forces have surrounded the prison and are fighting for control of nearby neighbourhoods. Residents have been fleeing their homes.

The Syrian Observatory says at least 28 Kurdish security forces have been killed, along with five civilians and 58 IS members.

Meanwhile IS claimed in a video on 22 January that many of its members had been freed in the attack on the prison. The footage also appeared to show the militants holding a number of hostages.

The Pentagon has confirmed the US-led coalition carried out air strikes.

State Department spokesman Ned Price praised the “capable efforts” of the SDF and said IS had been attempting to release militants from the prison for the past year.

Local elders told Reuters news agency that support for IS had grown in the region amid discontent among the Arab population with the Kurdish-led administration, which they accuse of discrimination. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces deny this.

Thousands of IS fighters from more than 50 countries are being held in Kurdish-run prisons in north-eastern Syria. (Courtesy BBC)

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