Three years after the fall of its self-proclaimed caliphate, the Islamic State (IS) group is pursuing its destabilizing strategy in territories it has lost in Syria and Iraq to rebuild its sphere of influence. The jihadist group launched its biggest military operation since 2019 in Kazakh, northeastern Syria, on Thursday night, January 20, attacking the Ghwayran prison to free detainees. The fighting that continued Saturday has already claimed dozens of lives. At about the same time, the Islamic State attacked a military base in Iraq’s Diyala province at dawn on Friday, killing 11 soldiers.
The attack on Ghwayran prison was carried out by heavily armed IS fighters. Farhad Shami, a spokesman for the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said more than a hundred attackers led by foreign jihadists, most of whom were Iraqis, were involved.Inside the prison – home to nearly 5,000 inmates, including “Islamic State commanders and some of the group’s most dangerous members,” According to Mr Shami, the prisoners simultaneously launched a rebellion, burning blankets and plastic materials.
An unknown number of prisoners escaped using a car bomb in front of the prison and fighting with Kurdish forces. Fighting continued on Friday in the north of the prison, which is still under the control of prisoners, and in the adjacent Zouhour area, where fighters took refuge, causing some residents to flee. The FDS announced that they had arrested more than 100 fugitives. Fahad Shami said seven SDF agents and 28 Islamic State fighters were killed in the clashes. The latest report released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed that 28 Kurdish troops and prison guards were killed, 45 IS members and five civilians were killed.
Shami added that the Kurdish army’s progress in Zuhur has slowed due to booby traps set up in houses by jihadists and the use of residents as human shields. FDS is supported by the International Coalition Against ISIS. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed that the U.S. military had conducted airstrikes against Islamic State members. On Friday night, SDF commander Mazlum al-Abadi announced that his forces had successfully foiled the attack and that all the fugitives had been arrested. However, Farhad Shami said on Saturday, “Fighting on the north side of the prison”and cause “Great location in and around the hotel”.
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