Riot in Islamic State camp as Turkish offensive bombards Kurdish positions

Riot in Islamic State camp as Turkish offensive bombards Kurdish positions
Several international governments including the US and Russia have expressed fear over the possibility of Islamic State fighters escaping Kurdish-held prisons amid the fighting.
3 min read
11 October, 2019
hows dark smokes rising in Syria's Rasulayn district amid the Turkish offensive. [Getty]

Kurdish officials were forced to put down a riot in al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria that's home to thousands of relatives of suspected Islamic State fighters, Kurdish officials said.

The incident comes as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are engaged in pitched battles against the Turkish military, who have launched a cross border offensive into Syrian territory further north.

AFP reported the incident started when women staged a protest, refusing to obey the wardens' orders. Kurdish internal security forces known (Asayish) were attacked by residents of the crowded camp, including groups of women.

A Kurdish official at the camp told the Kurdish administration-affiliated media centre that the group started chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) and throwing stones.

"The Asayish entered the camp and calmed the situation," the official said.

"They were rising up in an attempt to escape, to get past Asayish so they could escape. But until now no-one escaped."

Al-Hol is a massively overcrowded camp where 339 children were killed due to poor conditions, the International Rescue Committee reported.

Fears of Islamic State group resurgence

Several international officials expressed concern that the Turkish offensive could lead to the mass breakout of former Islamic State group fighters from Kurdish-held prisons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the Islamic State could make a comeback on the back of Turkey’s offensive.

“There are areas in northern Syria where [Islamic State] are active militants,” Putin said in Turkmenistan, Russian news agencies reported. 

Map: Click to enlarge

“Kurdish units used to keep an eye on those areas but now that Turkish troops are entering the region, they may just flee away. I’m not sure that the Turkish army will be able to take control of the situation, and quickly.”

Several Western countries have so far refused to repatriate the thousands of foreign IS fighters and relatives who are being held by the Kurds. The chaos and uncertainty caused by Turkey’s three-day-old military offensive has increased the pressure on those countries to find a solution to the problem.

The United States has recently taken custody of two high profile IS group fighters, who allegedly kidnapped and tortured foreigners, including journalists, at the height of the Islamic State group's power in Syria and Iraq in case the Kurds lose control of the region.

The story so far

The operation has so far focused on the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras Al-Ain, and President Erdogan has said that 109 "militants" have been killed. A spokesperson for the Turkish backed Syrian National Army told The New Arab that "forces in the national army, together with our allies in the Turkish army, took control of 12 villages and made great progress in several axes.”

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights reported that around 70,000 people have already been displaced.

Turkey has suffered casualties of its own, when five civilians - including one baby - were killed in suspected Kurdish shelling in the Turkish towns of Akcakale and Ceylanpinar, and a further two killed by a mortar today. 

Multiple Turkish soldiers have also reportedly been killed. 

Dubbed "Operation Spring of Peace", Ankara's offensive in northern Syria began Thursday with the aim of creating a 150km long and 25km deep "safe zone" on the other side of the Turkish border, currently occupied by the SDF.

This would provide Turkey with a buffer zone and allow for the repatriation of the country's three million Syrian refugees, Ankara claims.