QAMISHLI (REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) – Hundreds of relatives of foreign militants escaped from a displacement camp in northern Syria, Kurdish authorities said on Sunday (Oct 13), as the number of people fleeing a Turkish assault soared to 130,000.
The Kurdish administration in northern Syria said that Turkish bombardment near a camp for the displaced led to nearly 800 relatives of the members of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fleeing.
Kurdish authorities and foreign powers have warned repeatedly that the hostilities could undermine the fight against the ISIS and allow the militants to break out of captivity.
Fighting has engulfed the area since Wednesday when Ankara launched a long-threatened offensive against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who it considers “terrorists” linked to insurgents inside Turkey.
United States President Donald Trump has been accused of abandoning a loyal ally in the fight against ISIS after ordering American troops to pull back from the border.
The Kurdish-led security forces say they do not have enough guards for the Ain Issa camp that holds families of ISIS militants, an official with the SDF said.
Already weakened by redeployment of forces to front lines, the guarding of the camp was further depleted on Sunday, when Turkish shells crashed nearby, prompting some of the remaining personnel to flee, SDF official Marvan Qamishlo said.
“The guarding is very weak now,” he told Reuters, saying that there were now just 60-70 security personnel at the camp compared with a normal level of no less than 700.
The camp holds some 12,000 displaced people including some relatives of ISIS militants and ideally would require 1,500 guards, he said. “We don’t have this sufficient number.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor reported on Sunday that 14 more civilians had been killed in the fighting. 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.
The Observatory said pro-Ankara fighters “executed” at least nine civilians on Saturday near the Syrian town of Tal Abyad. The Kurds said a female Kurdish party official and her driver were among those killed.
Aid groups have warned of another humanitarian disaster in Syria’s eight-year-old war if the offensive is not halted. The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said the exodus sparked by the fighting had grown to 130,000 people and it was preparing for that figure to more than triple.