Six killed in rocket attack on northern town in Syria

Two children were among those killed and 30 people were wounded, war monitoring group says

A car burns after being hit by a shell in the town of Afrin, north of Aleppo. Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets via AP
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A rocket attack on a northern Syrian town controlled by Turkey-backed opposition fighters killed six civilians and wounded more than a dozen people on Thursday, Syrian rescuers and a war monitor said.

Both blamed US-backed Syrian-Kurdish forces for the attack.

The town of Afrin has been under control of Turkey and its allied Syrian opposition fighters since 2018, following a Turkey-backed military operation that pushed Syrian-Kurdish fighters and thousands of Kurdish residents from the area.

Since then, Afrin and surrounding villages have been the site of attacks on Turkish and Turkey-backed targets.

Ankara considers Kurdish fighters who control a portion of Syrian territory along Turkey’s border to be terrorists, allied with Kurdish insurgents within Turkey.

Turkey has carried out three military offensives into Syria, mostly to drive the Syrian-Kurdish militia away from its border.

The White Helmets, a Syrian civil defence group operating in opposition-held areas, said the rockets also caused a fire in a residential area of Afrin which its volunteers put out.

In a White Helmet video, rescuers are seen pulling a burnt, lifeless body from a damaged building as others are putting out a raging fire that left a couple of vehicles charred.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war-monitoring group, put the death toll at six, saying two children were among those killed and that 30 people were wounded.

Syrian-Kurdish fighters were allied with the US-led coalition in the fight against ISIS militants who captured a third of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

ISIS was defeated and Kurdish forces have since created an autonomous administration in north-eastern Syria, where a small US force is still based.

Also on Thursday, the Kurdish-led forces reported an attempted escape from a prison in north-eastern Syria that holds ISIS militants.

The report says that the militants first started to riot inside Gerwan prison in the city of Hassakeh, which houses about 3,000 prisoners.

This was followed by a car bomb, which was detonated at a site for storing and distributing petroleum products close to the prison. After this, clashes ensued with security forces in the area.

The Observatory said the US-led coalition provided air cover for the Kurdish-led forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.

An SDF spokesman, Farhad Shami, said it was not immediately possible to confirm if anyone had escaped from the prison. He said dozens of ISIS militants who tried to attack the prison were hiding in neighbourhoods nearby.

An SDF statement said the militants were believed to be hiding in residential homes and a security cordon was imposed on the area. It added that the riots in the prison were under control.

Kurdish authorities run more than two dozen detention facilities scattered across north-eastern Syria that hold about 10,000 ISIS fighters. Among the detainees are about 2,000 foreigners.

The Kurdish-led forces, backed by the US-led coalition, declared a military victory against ISIS in 2019 after seizing control of the last sliver of land the militants controlled in south-east Syria.

Since then, Kurdish authorities have asked countries to repatriate their nationals, saying keeping thousands in crammed facilities is putting a strain on their forces. Prison riots are not uncommon.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 10:54 PM