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Daesh fighters break out of Syria prison over coronavirus fears

Members of Daesh escaped from prison after militants rioted and seized control of part of a large jail in north-east Syria

Detained militants suspected of belonging to Daesh – otherwise known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – conducted a riot in a prison in Syria yesterday, with several inmates managing to escape.

The prisoners, who were under the detention of the Kurdish-led militia the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the Ghwairan Prison in the northeastern province of Hasaka, reportedly removed the internal doors of the prison before SDF reinforcements were called in to regain control.

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Spokesman for the SDF Mustafa Bali spoke of the incident on Twitter, saying that the militants successfully “managed to take over the first floor” while some others “managed to escape and our forces are searching to capture them.”

Those imprisoned reportedly consist of low-level Daesh members primarily made up of foreign nationals who came to Syria to fight for the group throughout the ongoing civil war in the country.

While it has not been confirmed how many prisoners escaped, Syrian state television put the number to at least 12, and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) put the number at four.

Bali told the US-based news agency Associated Press that “riots often break out in prisons. But this time the scale of the riot is large.”

Another SDF official told the France-based Associated French Press (AFP) that “security forces are on high alert,” and that in order to search for and capture the escapees, “international coalition planes are flying over the prison and the region.”

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The primary reason for this larger riot was reportedly the prisoners’ fears over the spread of the coronavirus pandemic which has spread throughout the world over the past few months, including the region of the Middle East.

As part of the measures enforced by governments in the region, many prisoners are being released in order to prevent the potential spread of the virus within the prisons, which has apparently led the Deash prisoners of war to act on that same fear.

Syria reported its first death caused by the virus yesterday, marking a new milestone in the country’s fight against the spread of the pandemic. The virus has not, however, been confirmed to have reached territory held by opposition groups in the north-west or by the SDF in the north-east.

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