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US-Backed Kurdish Forces, IS Militants Continue to Clash Over Syrian Prison

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VOA footage of latest clashes between US-backed Kurdish forces, IS militants
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VOA footage of latest clashes between US-backed Kurdish forces, IS militants

Syrian Kurdish troops say they are tightening their siege on a huge prison in Hasaka, northeastern Syria, that houses thousands of alleged Islamic State members.

Clashes have been ongoing between the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and IS militants since Thursday following an attempt by operatives linked to the terror group to free inmates held in the detention center.

There have been major advances against IS, also known as ISIS or Daesh, an SDF official told VOA Sunday.

“The control of the prison is in our hands,” said Farhad Shami, head of SDF’s media center. “Daesh terrorists have no escape; they will either be captured or killed by our forces.”

The Kurdish official said that more than 70 IS militants have been killed in the clashes, which also have left about 17 SDF fighters dead. He added that IS has used some civilians from nearby neighborhoods as human shields to deter the SDF and coalition forces from targeting the militants.

The SDF, which is a Kurdish-led military alliance, holds about 12,000 suspected IS prisoners, including more than 2,000 foreigners from nearly 50 countries. They have been held in several SDF-run detention centers across northeast Syria since the territorial defeat of IS in March 2019.

The U.S.-led coalition said IS’s attacks in recent days have made the militant group even weaker.

“In their desperate attempt to display relevance, Daesh delivered a death sentence for many of their own who participated in this attack,” said Maj. Gen. John Brennan, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement Sunday.

“Many Daesh detainees seized arms from prison guards whom they murdered and subsequently engaged SDF quick reaction forces,” he said.

Coalition forces carried out a series of strikes against IS militants who were attacking SDF fighters near the prison, the statement added.

Attacking the detention facility was a top IS priority for more than a year, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Saturday.

“This attack highlights the importance of, and the need to fully fund, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS’s initiatives to improve the secure and humane detention of ISIS fighters, including by strengthening detention facility security,” the statement said, adding that the attack “also underscores the urgent need for countries of origin to repatriate, rehabilitate, reintegrate, and prosecute, where appropriate, their nationals detained in northeast Syria.”

The U.S. official added that the United States remained committed to the enduring global defeat of IS through support of the coalition and local partners.

This story originated in VOA’s Kurdish Service. Zana Omer contributed from Qamishli, Syria.

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