Syria's Al Hol camp has seen a decline in violent attacks, with authorities “tracking zero murders” so far this year, a top US commander said on Wednesday.
Maj Gen Matthew McFarlane, Commanding General of the US Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, said Washington's work with partner forces to address the camp's security concerns were helping quell violence.
“We've seen steady progress, as we've assisted with guard or security force training… We've also seen a decrease in violent attacks,” Maj Gen McFarlane said.
“We're tracking zero murders this year, compared to previous years where they were in the double digits.”
About 50,000 people live at the Kurdish-controlled camp in Syria's north-east. The vast majority of residents are women and children, including the wives, widows and other family members of ISIS extremists. Most are Syrian and Iraqi.
Its international residents, who come from all corners of the globe, are believed to be some of ISIS's most radical adherents.
A Save the Children report from last year found that in 2021 about two people were killed a week in the camp, making it “one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child” per capita.
Late last year, two Egyptian girls were beheaded.
Humanitarian organisations have called for political action to safely repatriate residents of the camp, calling its children “a lost generation” amid desperate health and safety conditions.
Maj Gen McFarlane celebrated the decrease in the camp's population this year “from about 53,000 to about 48,000”, as Washington continues to support the global repatriation of residents.
Baghdad has called for the camp's closure, saying that it has become a “source for terrorism”.
“Ending the issue of Al Hol camp has become a top national interest for Iraq,” Iraq's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Sahhaf said in June.
Thanking Iraq for its work to repatriate its citizens, Maj Gen McFarlane added that the camp remains a “security concern” and that alleviating its harsh conditions would help lower the threat of radicalisation.
“We think [repatriation is] an important part of the long term defeat of [ISIS],” he said.
“Addressing the conditions in that camp to ensure that needed humanitarian aid can be provided, and that the security in that camp fosters the atmosphere to allow the residents of that camp get the needed aid.”
Maj Gen McFarlane spoke on the importance of enduring US action to quell the threat of ISIS in the region, pointing to a recent ISIS ambush on Syrian soldiers that left at least 26 dead.
“Progress and stability, we see, can be fragile. If you look at what [ISIS] is aspiring to do, which was demonstrated over the last month in different parts of Syria – we must not be complacent,” he said.
“Their evil ideology persists and the prospect of resurgence remains a possibility.”