Islamic State detainees took partial control of a prison in northeast Syria for a short time on Sunday night after instigating a revolt against prison guards.
ISIS prisoners detained at the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-held Ghweran prison in Hasakah, Syria, instigated a riot against prison officers on Sunday. According to local sources, four detainees escaped the prison after destroying security cameras, although this escape was denied by the commander of the SDF’s Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi. Prisoners reportedly ripped out doors in their cells and used them to break down walls.
SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel later confirmed police had defused the situation, with the jail holding both foreign and local ISIS militants.
The international coalition, set up to fight against ISIS militants, was forced to intervene after prisoners took control of the ground floor of the prison, opening dorms in order to let other detainees out of their confinement.
Roubar Hassan, Director of Ghweran prison, said prisoners initially demanded “global coalition and human rights committees” visit the prison. The Rojava Information Centre (RIC) said it was therefore likely that the fear of the coronavirus pandemic triggered the riot, as prisoners fear contracting the virus living in cramped conditions.
Ghweran prison is one of several the SDF uses to hold those accused of belonging to ISIS. Human Rights Watch estimates the SDF is holding around 12,000 individuals suspected of belonging to ISIS, up to 4,000 of whom could be foreign.
Kino Gabriel said in his statement that the incident has shown the need for more international support to ensure detention centres and camps are sufficiently secure. The Autonomous Administration, which is the de facto authority in the region, has said it cannot cope alone with the burden of the thousands of IS detainees, who are currently held in overcrowded facilities.
Since the defeat of ISIS’ so-called caliphate, the group’s sleeper cells stage small-scale attacks against locals and SDF fighters in Hasakah. This riot represents yet another part of the continuing fight against Islamic State militants in the region.