Clashes continue at Syria prison hit by IS
Clashes broke out on Saturday between Kurdish forces and Islamic State group fighters near a Syrian prison where dozens of jihadists are still holed up, a war monitor said.
An IS assault on the sprawling Ghwayran prison complex near the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh on January 20 sparked days of heavy fighting that has left some 260 people dead.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced they had recaptured the prison on Wednesday, but that mop-up operations continued.
On Saturday, there were "clashes in the vicinity of the prison between the Syrian Democratic Forces and Kurdish security forces on the one hand, and members of IS who are hiding in the area," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The war monitor, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria, said that four IS fighters are holding a local official and three civilians hostage in a residential building near the prison.
The SDF said on Wednesday some 3,500 IS members had surrendered, but that holdout IS fighters had barricaded themselves inside the prison facility.
The IS gunmen are in "cellars that are difficult to target with air strikes or infiltrate" the Observatory said.
SDF officials estimate that between 60 and 90 IS fighters were still in the basement and the ground floor above it.
An AFP correspondent reported that US troops and Kurdish-led forces have surrounded the building and deployed snipers on nearby rooftops, reporting there was intermittent shooting.
Kurdish forces have repeatedly called for IS gunmen to surrender.
"Our forces have not used force with them so far," Farhad Shami, who heads the SDF's media office, said Saturday.
Kurdish-led forces have banned journalists from accessing the Ghwayran neighbourhood or approaching the prison since the start of the attack.
The fighting has killed more than 260 people, including around 180 jihadists, 73 Kurdish-led fighters and seven civilians, the Observatory said, adding that the death toll is likely to increase.
The violence forced 45,000 people to flee Hasakeh, the United Nations said.
Many took refuge in their relatives' homes, while hundreds others have been sleeping in the city's mosques and wedding halls.