Relatives of ISIS militants flee Syrian camp

Relatives of IS fighters have escaped from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria, amid a Turkish cross-border offensive.
Smoke billows out after Turkish shelling on the Syrian border towns of Qamishli and Ras Al Ain, as seen from Nusaybin, Turkey, on Oct 11, 2019.
Smoke billows out after Turkish shelling on the Syrian border towns of Qamishli and Ras Al Ain, as seen from Nusaybin, Turkey, on Oct 11, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

QAMISHLI • Hundreds of relatives of foreign militants escaped from a displacement camp in northern Syria, the Kurdish authorities said yesterday, 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 the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fleeing.

Fighting raged along the border on the fifth day of an offensive that has provoked an international outcry and left dozens of civilians and fighters dead.

The Kurdish authorities and foreign powers have warned repeatedly that the hostilities could undermine the fight against ISIS and allow the militants to break out of captivity.

Fighting has engulfed the area since last Wednesday, when Ankara launched an 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.

  • 60-70

    Number of security personnel at the camp that holds families of ISIS militants, compared with no fewer than 700 normally.


    Ideal number of guards the camp should have, according to an SDF official.

Already weakened by the redeployment of forces to front lines, the guarding of the camp was further depleted yesterday 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 to 70 security personnel at the camp, compared with a normal level of no fewer than 700.

The camp holds some 12,000 displaced people, including some relatives of ISIS militants, and would ideally require 1,500 guards, he said. "We don't have this sufficient number."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor reported yesterday that 14 more civilians had been killed in 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.


Aid groups have warned of another humanitarian disaster in Syria's eight-year-old war if the offensive is not halted.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the exodus sparked by the fighting had grown to 130,000 people and it was preparing for that figure to more than triple.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2019, with the headline 'Relatives of ISIS militants flee Syrian camp'. Print Edition | Subscribe