At least 750 people with suspected links to Islamic State have reportedly fled a displacement camp in north-east Syria, local officials have said, raising fears that the Turkish offensive against Kurdish forces in the area could lead Isis to regain strength amid the chaos.
The news came at the same time the US ordered all 1,000 US troops to withdraw “as safely and quickly as possible” from the region after learning that the Turkish operation was likely to extend further than Ankara’s proposed 20-mile (32km) “safe zone” on the border between the two countries.
The bloody conflict between Turkey and the formerly US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters “gets worse by the hour”, the US defence secretary, Mark Esper, said on Sunday in a pre-taped interview.
While US forces made preparations to pull out, the mayhem in Kurdish-held north-east Syria intensified, with reports that Turkish backed militias had summarily executed several civilians, including a female Kurdish politician.
On Sunday night Syrian TV said government troops were moving to the north to confront the Turkish offensive, potentially setting up direct clashes between Turkey and the Assad regime.
The 249 women and 700 children formerly part of the “caliphate” were held in a secure annexe at the Ain Issa camp. They began to riot and scared away the guards after Turkish shelling struck close to the area on Sunday, Abdulkader Mwahed, the joint president for humanitarian affairs in the Kurdish-held part of Syria, said in a statement.
Jelal Ayaf, the co-chair of the camp’s management, said sleeper cells within the civilian section also emerged during the riot, attacking the remaining guards who had not already fled the shelling.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: The Guardian, Bethan McKernan