• Friday, May 14, 2021
  • Last Update : 07:18 am

Syria Kurds launch security sweep, arrests in camp for IS families

  • Published at 08:26 pm March 28th, 2021
A guard keeps watch as Syrians wait to leave the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp, which holds relatives of alleged Islamic State (IS) group fighters, in the Syrian
File photo: A guard keeps watch as Syrians wait to leave the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp, which holds relatives of alleged Islamic State (IS) group fighters, in the Syrian northeastern al-Hasakeh governorate on December 10, 2020 AFP

The US-led coalition battling IS said it was providing its SDF partners with 'intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance' support

Kurdish forces made dozens of arrests in a security operation launched on Sunday  in a camp for suspected family members of Islamic State group militants in northeast Syria, a war monitor and Kurdish officials said.

Al-Hol is the largest such settlement controlled by Kurdish authorities, who warn it is emerging as an extremist powder keg following dozens of murders in the camp since the start of the year.

It holds almost 62,000 people, mostly women and children, including Syrians, Iraqis and thousands from Europe and Asia suspected of family ties with IS fighters.

"More than thirty women and men have been arrested" in a sweeping anti-IS operation in and around the Al-Hol camp, said Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The arrests are ongoing" as part of a days-long operation by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is the Kurdish regional administration's main fighting force, the Kurdish YPG militia and a local police force, Abdul Rahman said.

Syrians and foreigners "suspected of supporting IS" have been arrested, he said. SDF officials confirmed the operation, with one of them saying it would run at least 10 days.

The US-led coalition battling IS said it was providing its SDF partners with "intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance" support.

"The purpose of this SDF operation is to degrade and disrupt Daesh activities within the camp to ensure the safety and security of camp residents," coalition spokesperson Wayne Marotto told AFP, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

In a separate statement, the coalition said the Kurdish operation also aimed to "increase the ability for NGOs to safely provide the much needed assistance inside the camp."

Danger 'lives on'

The SDF and its coalition allies declared the defeat of a self-proclaimed IS "caliphate" in March 2019 after ousting jihadists from their last Syria stronghold in the eastern village of Baghouz.

Many IS fighters have since relocated to the vast Syrian desert near the border with Iraq, from where they continue to plan and execute attacks.

"The fall of the last patch of IS territory in northeast Syria does not mean complete defeat," the SDF said this week in a ceremony marking two years since their victory against jihadists in Baghouz.

"The danger of the IS group lives on in the thousands of prisoners held in jails as well as... their relatives detained in camps," it added.

Many Al-Hol residents see the camp as the last vestige of the IS proto-state that jihadists declared in 2014 across large swathes of both Syria and Iraq.

The Observatory has recorded around 40 murders in the camp since January.

Kurdish authorities say IS sympathizers are behind most of the murders, while humanitarian sources have said tribal disputes could be behind some of the killings.

Despite repeated calls by the UN and Kurdish authorities for countries to repatriate their nationals, only a small number of people, mostly children, have been allowed to return.

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