Hundreds of relatives of ISIS militants reportedly escaped a Kurdish-established detention camp in northern Syria on Sunday after Turkish airstrikes hit the surrounding area.
A total of 950 ISIS supporters reportedly fled a displaced-persons camp in Ain Issa, a city about 35 miles from the Turkish border, according to a statement issued Sunday by the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria.
The escapes occurred as Turkish airstrikes bombarded the surrounding area.
Jelal Ayaf, a senior official at the camp, told local reporters that 859 individuals fled the section of the camp housing foreigners, the Associated Press reported.
Ayaf noted that while some were recaptured, people in other sections of the camp escaped. He described the situation as “very volatile.”
Hours before the escape, Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed that roughly 1,000 U.S. troops would be removed from northern Syria as part of a “deliberate withdrawal” from the region.
“It’ll be a deliberate withdrawal and we want to conduct it a s safely and quickly as possible,” Esper said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.” He added that the U.S. learned Turkey’s military offensive would expand farther south than originally planned and to the west.
Trump abruptly announced last week that the U.S. would withdraw roughly 1,000 troops from northern Syria ahead of a planned Turkish offensive in the area.
Trump’s decision was universally condemned, with many voicing concerns that it could lead to a resurgence for ISIS.
“You can pull your troops out, as President Obama learned the hard way, out of Iraq, but the ‘enemy gets the vote,’ we say in the military,” Former Defense Secretary James Mattis said in an interview with NBC. “And in this case, if we don’t keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.”
Ciya Kurd, of the Kurdish-led regional authority, told The New York Times that the group is “facing very fierce attacks” and that they will be forced to “decrease the numbers of guards” overseeing detention camps.
Kurd added that an ISIS flag had been raised in the countryside between the Turkish border and the city where the Kurdish detention camp is based.
Asked about the potential threat of an ISIS resurgence last Wednesday, Trump said, “well they’re going to be escaping to Europe.”
“That’s where they want to go. They want to go back to their homes,” Trump said. “But Europe didn’t want them from us. We could’ve given it to them. They could’ve had trials they could’ve had whatever they wanted. But as usual, it’s not reciprocal.”
The commander of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces told an American diplomat on Thursday that the United States has “given up on us” and is “leaving us to be slaughtered.”
“You have given up on us. You are leaving us to be slaughtered,” Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi, the head of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), told William Roebuck, deputy special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been vital allies to the U.S. in the war on terror and fight against ISIS.
“You are not willing to protect the people, but you do not want another force to come and protect us,” Kobani told the U.S. envoy, according to CNN.
“You have sold us. This is immoral,” he added.