Middle East

US reportedly leaves dozens of 'high value' IS detainees behind following retreat in Syria

A file photo of IS fighters walking as they hold the group's flag inside Baghouz in Syria, March 2019. Source: AAP

The US president has already claimed America removed the worst IS prisoners last week.

The United States reportedly left behind five dozen "high value" Islamic State prisoners during its controversial retreat from Syria, despite assurances from the US president that America had removed the worst IS prisoners.

Two American officials have allegedly confirmed the details with The New York Times, but Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has hit out at the claim, calling it little more than "disinformation" designed to provoke a response in the West.

The development follows reports hundreds of relatives of foreign members of the Islamic State group have escaped from a displacement camp in northern Syria where a Turkish offensive is underway.

The Kurdish administration said the Ain Issa camp was "now without guards" and 785 relatives of IS jihadists had fled.

"The brutal military assault led by Turkey and its mercenaries is now taking place near a camp in Ain Issa, where there are thousands (of people) from families of IS," the Kurdish administration said in a statement.

"Some were able to escape after bombardments that targeted" the camp, the statement added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor confirmed that "around 100" foreign women and children from families of IS members escaped, without specifying their nationalities.

Turkey launched its offensive on Wednesday to push Kurdish-led forces away from the northeastern border area of war-torn Syria.

Kurdish authorities have repeated warnings that the fighting could facilitate an IS resurgence, saying security instability could allow IS to free thousands of jihadists and their families held in prisons and displacement camps in Kurdish-held territory.

Some 12,000 IS fighters - Syrians, Iraqis as well as foreigners from 54 countries - are detained in Kurdish prisons, according to their official statistics. 

The Ain Issa camp has been host to hundreds of children of suspected IS members.
The Ain Issa camp has been host to hundreds of children of suspected IS members.
AAP

The displacement camps host some 12,000 foreigners -- 8,000 children and 4,000 women.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who control territory in northern Syria, were the main partner on the ground in the US-led campaign against IS.

US President Donald Trump has been accused of abandoning a loyal ally and giving Turkey a green light to launch the long-threatened offensive after ordering American troops to pull back from the border.

'Humanitarian crisis' 

The families collective urged the government to act "before the situation gets worse, before innocent children are killed or injured... before the foreign prisoners disperse in the Syrian chaos".

Fighting has engulfed northern Syria since Wednesday when Ankara launched a long-threatened offensive against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which it considers "terrorists" linked to insurgents in Turkey. 

US President Donald Trump has been accused of abandoning a loyal ally in the fight against IS after ordering American troops to pull back from the border.

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