Syria: Riot breaks out at prison holding IS militants
Several suspected Islamic State militants escaped from a prison in the eastern province of Hassakeh in Syria on Sunday, after inmates rioted and took control of the ground floor of the prison.
Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said on Twitter that the prisoners removed the internal doors of the prison and anti-terrorism forces were called into the regain control of the facility. "Riots often break out in prisons. But this time the scale of the riot is large", Bali told journalists.
"Security forces are on high alert. International coalition planes are flying over the prison and the region," an SDF official told news agency AFP.
Kobani, a city reborn after 'Islamic State' expulsion
Remember Kobani? Kurdish fighters freed the besieged Syrian city from "Islamic State" militants in a battle closely followed by international media in 2014. The town is slowly being rebuilt, but the drama remains. By Karlos Zurutuza
A symbol of resistance: the siege of the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani was launched on 15 September 2014, by "Islamic State" militants. The offensive prompted a mass exodus from the town and surrounding countryside towards Turkey, though many stayed to fight the enemy. The sculpture at the entrance of the city pays homage to Arin Mirkan, a woman who ran towards an IS position and blew herself up with a hand grenade
Kobanigrad: U.S.-led airstrikes helped Kurdish forces on the ground until Kobani was officially liberated on 26 January. However, 70 percent of the once-bustling city on the Turkey-Syria border was nicknamed the "Kurdish Stalingrad," or "Kobanigrad." Officials claim that 50 percent of the damaged areas have been reconstructed
Rebuilding from scratch: despite promises from the international community to rebuild the city, local officials reveal that funds come either from the Kurdish diaspora or private donations. While Kobani's administration covers the cost of basic infrastructure such as roads and sewage, local residents have to pay an average $20,000 (€17,000) to rebuild their houses
A bustling bazaar: the city's bazaar is once again a focal point for visitors and residents. Goods, however, are not as readily available as locals would like due to the embargo enforced by both Ankara and Irbil over Kurdish-controlled Syria. Such political grievances also lead to a lack of basic construction materials, which is a major obstacle for the reconstruction process
'Health is life': since the first hospital was re-opened by the Kurdish Red Crescent in 2016, two others have been added to the list. Special medical equipment has been sent by UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders, but there's a growing need for medicines as the hospitals also cater to injured people brought daily from Raqqa, where fighting between the Kurdish-led force and "Islamic State" continues
In memoriam: the city is littered with pictures showing the portraits of those men and women who died during the siege of Kobani or on other fronts. That of Abdullah Ocalan, co-founder and imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party, is also a recurrent image in murals, banners and even uniform patches among the ranks of the Kurdish militia YPG
The war is far from over: although security has improved dramatically over the last three years, many still join the ranks of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the U.S. backed multi-ethnic force which is fighting "Islamic State" in its last Syrian strongholds. "I was too young to fight in 2014 but, at 18, I can no longer skip my obligations," says soldier Heval Sipan
My ruin, my house: many of those who cannot afford to pay for their houses to be rebuilt still struggle to survive in the rubble, with neither running water nor electricity. Three years after the siege, much of the debris has yet to be removed
Dreaming of rubble: there are also those who cannot even return to the rubble of their former houses and remain stranded in this refugee camp outside Kobani, which hosts 50 families. "I'd be more than happy if I could just get the money to rebuild a room for my family," admits Idris Sheikh, a father of ten
The U.S.-led coalition said that the prison held "low-level IS members", who are primarily foreign nationals.
While authorities did not immediately reveal the number of people who had escaped, Syrian state television reported that at least 12 militants escaped from the prison. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number of escapees at four.
SDF spokesman Bali said that the riot was not connected to fears related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Although concerns of an outbreak in Syrian prisons are high, there haven't yet been any reports of infections within detention facilities in Kurdish-administered northeastern Syria.
Kurdish authorities have more than 24 detention facilities across northeastern Syria, housing 10,000 IS members - including 2,000 foreign nationals.
Last year, the Kurdish-led forces, along with the US-led coalition, declared victory against the IS. Since then, the Kurdish authorities have requested countries to repatriate their citizens, as looking after thousands of detainees is straining their forces. Governments around the world, however, are reluctant to take back their citizens. (AP/AFP/Reuters)