Turkey denies offensive triggered IS prison break

ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkey denied that its offensive in northern Syria had allowed Islamic State (IS) extremist prisoners to break out of detention camps, charging yesterday that Kurdish militants had instead deliberately “emptied” a prison.

“There is only one Daesh (Islamic State) prison in our (operation) region and we have seen it was emptied by the YPG (the Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia),” Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters.

“There are pictures and films of it,” he added, without naming the prison.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier hit out at “disinformation” reports that Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish forces had allowed extremists to escape.

“This is actually disinformation aimed at provoking America or the West,” he said, quoted by the Hurriyet daily.

Kurdish authorities said last Sunday that 800 IS family members being held in a camp at Ain Issa had fled due to a bombing.

But relatives back in France told AFP that Kurdish guards had forced the women and children to leave the camp.

“Today (Sunday), the Kurdish guards opened the doors to the foreign women and asked them to leave the camp,” said the mother of a 24-year-old woman, who had been kept at the camp with her infant son for the past 18 months.

“They didn’t escape. They (the Kurdish forces) didn’t want them. They were expecting to be taken over by Syrian or Turkish forces, but they were kicked out. For several days, the bombs were falling closer and closer to the camp, where there were no more non-governmental organisations, no more help,” she added.

Kurdish forces also claimed that five IS extremists escaped last Friday from a prison in the region.

Turkey is in the sixth day of its offensive in Syria against the YPG, which it sees as “terrorists” but which were a crucial ally for the United States (US) and western powers against IS.

US President Donald Trump denied yesterday that removing US troops from the region was risking a mass escape of IS prisoners held by the Kurdish forces.

“Kurds may be releasing some to get us involved. Easily recaptured by Turkey or European Nations from where many came, but they should move quickly,” he wrote on Twitter.

Turkish National Defence Minister Hulusi Akar makes a statement to journalists in Ankara. PHOTO: AFP