As fighting continued in and around the prison complex in Haseke, northeast Syria, in efforts to get the situation under total control after an Islamic State (ISIS) attack on a detention centre to free imprisoned ISIS fighters, the US Defence Department has confirmed for the first time that its ground forces were involved in the fight, the New York Times reported on Monday.
According to the report, the Pentagon said that troops of the international coalition had moved in armoured Bradley fighting vehicles to back the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the major armed force of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).
Groups of ISIS members had launched an attack on the Sina’a Prison in Ghuwayran (Xiwêran) on Thursday evening, the biggest military attack since its defeat in 2019 at the hands of the SDF, and clashes ensued as the attack was repelled. Although parts of the prison compound were captured by ISIS militants, a large number of militants also went into hiding and took up positions in the surrounding civilian neighbourhoods.
As a week-long curfew was declared in all AANES territories on Monday, SDF units started combing operations to capture ISIS fighters, and reports followed that clashes had re-started around the prison in the evening.
The siege of the prison, which houses more than 3,000 suspected ISIS fighters and almost 700 boys, so called, ‘Cubs of the Caliphate’, has evolved into a hostage crisis with ISIS fighters still holding about a quarter of the prison and using the boys as human shields, the New York Times report said.
While the SDF announced that it had recaptured one of the prison’s three buildings in a dawn raid on Monday and about 300 ISIS fighters had surrendered, it’s also been stated that ISIS had threatened to kill the boys held as hostages if the operation continued.
SDF spokesperson Farhad Shami also said that 30 SDF fighters had been killed in the operation to take back the prison, and that about 200 ISIS fighters and inmates who joined them in an attempt to escape had been killed since Friday.
It is still not clear exactly how many ISIS prisoners had escaped.