Women detainees released, arms seized as US-backed Syrian forces raid Daesh camp

226 extremists, including 36 women, were detained by the authorities during a 24-day sweep at Al Hol in Syria's Hassakeh


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Children gather outside their tents at Al Hol camp. — AP file
Children gather outside their tents at Al Hol camp. — AP file

Published: Sat 17 Sep 2022, 7:57 PM

US-backed Syrian fighters said on Saturday they have concluded a 24-day sweep at a sprawling camp in northeast Syria housing tens of thousands of women and children linked to the Daesh group.

Dozens of extremists were detained and weapons were confiscated in the operation at Al Hol camp, which began on August 25, the US-backed forces said. The force said two of its fighters were killed in clashes with extremists inside the camp during the operation.

Daesh sleeper cells preparing a new generation of militants — boys and girls being fed extremist ideology — were also uncovered, the statement by the Internal Security Forces said. It added that the operation was assisted by the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces as well as members of the US-led coalition.

The operation at Al Hol in the northeastern province of Hassakeh also led to the release of two Yazidi girls taken from Iraq as sex slaves years ago and four non-Yazidi women, who had been chained and subjected to torture.

“The operation was launched following the increasing crimes of killing and torture committed by Daesh cells against the camp residents,” said the statement from the US-backed forces. It added that since the beginning of the year, the extremists have killed 44 camp residents and humanitarian workers.

The statement also said that 226 people, including 36 women, were detained in Al Hol — widely seen as a breeding ground for the Daesh group.

Some 50,000 Syrians and Iraqis are crowded into tents in the fenced-in camp. Nearly 20,000 of them are children; most of the rest are women, wives and widows of Daesh fighters.

In a separate, heavily guarded section of the camp known as the annex are an additional 2,000 women from 57 other countries — they are considered the most die-hard Daesh supporters — along with their children, numbering about 8,000.

“Daesh has depended mainly on women and children, as real resources related directly to its leaders, to maintain the extremist ideology and spread it in the camp,” the statement said.

The camp was initially used to house the families of Daesh fighters in late 2018 as US-backed Kurdish-led forces recaptured territory in eastern Syria from the militants. In March 2019, they seized the last Daesh-held villages, ending the “caliphate” that the group had declared over large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

The United States and other nations have struggled to repatriate the families, but have had only very limited success.

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