Kurdish-led security forces have quelled a riot at a prison for suspected ISIS fighters in the north-east Syrian city of Hasaka on Monday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK based war monitor, said four detainees believed to have broken out of Ghourian prison had been tracked down within the jail holding some 5,000 inmates.
The spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, Mustafa Bali, described the situation inside the jail as “tense”.
The SDF said inmates partially seized control of the jail on Sunday and that they were in pursuit of those who were believed to have fled.
The Syrian regime maintains a significant security presence in the rural city of Hasaka and several of its official departments function normally.
SANA, the regime’s official news agency, said that overnight the US-led coalition had illuminated the prison area from the air to help trace the fugitives. The prison, SANA said, has 3,000 ISIS members as well incarcerated civilians.
SANA said 12 prisoners escaped, while the SDF initially said only that there were several.
The SDF is dominated by the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG), which is closely linked to the Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Washington regards the PKK as a terrorist organisation but it is backing the YPG militia.
With tacit Syrian regime cooperation, the YPG seized control of large parts of north-east Syria after the outbreak of the Syrian revolt against five decades of Assad family rule in 2011.
The takeover contributed a violent Arab backlash, with many joining militant groups that marketed themselves as a bulwark against Kurdish militia expansion.
The Kurdish groups fought back ISIS who largely overran the region of Syria and in the process became the main ground component of the US-led war against the terror group in Syria.
The war resulted in ISIS losing virtually all of its territory in Syria in March 2019. But the group still mounts hit-and-run attacks against the Kurdish militia.
Human Rights Watch says the SDF has in detention 12,000 men and boys suspected of belonging to ISIS. Among them are 2,000 to 4,000 foreigners from almost 50 countries.
The inmates are often held in inhumane conditions, Human Rights Watch says. The Kurdish militia also oversees camps that house thousands of Syrian and foreign women and children who are family members of suspected militants.
Rights groups and Kurdish forces have called on the international community to do more to repatriate their nationals who joined ISIS and support the camps holding prisoners. Many nations have refused to repatriate men, women or children although some have been returned.