Syria Kurds launch security sweep, arrests in Islamic State families camp

Kurdish fighters watch over women inside the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp for the displaced in the al-Hasakeh governorate in north-eastern Syria on January 14, 2020, at the section reserved for Iraqis and Syrians. — AFP pic
Kurdish fighters watch over women inside the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp for the displaced in the al-Hasakeh governorate in north-eastern Syria on January 14, 2020, at the section reserved for Iraqis and Syrians. — AFP pic

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BEIRUT, March 28 — Kurdish forces launched a security operation in a camp for suspected family members of Islamic State group militants and made dozens of arrests today, a war monitor and Kurdish officials said.

“More than thirty women and men have been arrested” in a sweeping anti-IS operation in and around the Al-Hol camp, said Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The arrests are ongoing” as part of a days-long operation by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is the Kurdish regional administration’s main fighting force, the Kurdish YPG militia and a local police force, Abdul Rahman said.

Syrians and foreigners “suspected of supporting IS” have been arrested, he said.

SDF officials confirmed the operation, with one of them saying it would run at least 10 days.

The US-led coalition battling IS said it was providing its SDF partners with “intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance” support.

“The purpose of this SDF operation is to degrade and disrupt Daesh activities within the camp to ensure the safety and security of camp residents,” coalition spokesperson Wayne Marotto told AFP, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

Al-Hol is the largest such settlement controlled by Kurdish authorities, who warn it is emerging as an extremist powder keg.

It holds almost 62,000 people, mostly women and children, including Syrians, Iraqis and thousands from Europe and Asia suspected of family ties with IS fighters.

The Observatory has recorded around 40 murders in Al-Hol since the start of this year. 

Kurdish authorities say IS sympathisers are behind most of the murders, while humanitarian sources have said tribal disputes could be behind some of the killings. 

In a report published last month, the UN said it had documented cases of “radicalisation, fundraising, training and incitement of external operations” at Al-Hol.

It also warned over the fate of around 7,000 children living in a special annex designated for foreign IS relatives.

They are “being groomed as future ISIL (IS) operatives”, according to the United Nations.

Despite repeated calls by the UN and Kurdish authorities for countries to repatriate their nationals, only a limited number of people, mostly children, have been allowed to return. — AFP

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