Nearly 800 ISIS relatives flee Syria camp

Updated: Oct 14, 2019, 07:49 IST | Agencies | Qamishli

Turkey claims forces have captured first town in northern Syria, taken control of key highway on Day 5 of its offensive

Turkish-baked Syrian troops carry a fellow wounded fighter near Tal Abyad in Syria
Turkish-baked Syrian troops carry a fellow wounded fighter near Tal Abyad in Syria

Qamishli: Hundreds of relatives of foreign jihadists escaped from a displacement camp in northern Syria, Kurdish authorities said Sunday, as the number of people fleeing a Turkish assault soared to 1,30,000. Fighting raged along the border on the fifth day of an offensive against Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that has provoked an international outcry and left dozens of civilians and fighters dead.

Kurdish authorities and foreign powers have warned repeatedly that the hostilities could undermine the fight against the Islamic State group or ISIS and allow jihadists to break out of captivity.

The Kurdish administration said Turkish bombing near Ain Issa camp for the displaced led to nearly 800 relatives of ISIS members fleeing. The camp was "now without guards" and 785 relatives of ISIS jihadists had fled, it said. Some 12,000 ISIS fighters are detained in Kurdish prisons.

Displaced Syrians, who fled their homes in Ras al-Ain, receive aid on Sunday. Pics/AFP
Displaced Syrians, who fled their homes in Ras al-Ain, receive aid on Sunday. Pics/AFP

More than 50 civilians have now died on the Syrian side, with Turkish reports putting the number of civilians dead from Kurdish shelling inside Turkey at 18. Meanwhile, Turkey's official news agency says allied Syrian forces have captured the town Suluk in the fifth day of the Turkish offensive in northeast Syria.

Anadolu said on Sunday the town's center was cleared of Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG. Turkey considers the group a threat for links to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency at home. Turkey's Defense ministry tweeted 480 YPG fighters were "neutralised" since Wednesday.

US to withdraw 1,000 troops

Amid growing chaos in Syria, President Donald Trump has ordered all American troops to withdraw from the country's north to avoid an "untenable" conflict between Turkey and United States-backed Kurdish fighters, Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday.

The approximately 1,000 US troops in Syria are not leaving the country entirely, Defence Secretary Esper told CBS' "Face the Nation." Esper said he would not discuss a timeline for the US pullback, but he said it would be done "as safely and quickly as possible".

World leaders, United Nations warn Turkey

. The United Nations on Sunday warned that Turkey's assault on Kurdish positions will displace close to 4,00,000 people within and across the affected areas.

. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to halt the offensive immediately, warning it could spark further destabilisation of the region and lead to a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

. France said on Sunday it was "worried" after reports said relatives of IS jihadists had escaped from a camp in northern Syria, under Turkish assault. "I do not know, today, who exactly the people are who fled from the camp; it has always been a worry for France and so we want Turkey... to end as quickly as possible the intervention it has begun," said government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye.

Nine, including politician, 'executed' in Syria

Pro-Ankara fighters taking part in a Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria "executed" at least nine civilians including a female politician on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "The nine civilians were executed at different moments south of the town of Tal Abyad," it said. The Kurds said a Kurdish political leader Hevrin Khalaf and her driver were among those killed.

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