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Turkey accuses Kurdish forces of freeing IS prisoners in Syria

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By Agence France-Presse

Turkey on Monday accused Kurdish forces of deliberately releasing Islamic State prisoners held at a prison in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad.

Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters celebrate in Akcakale, in Sanliurfa province advance, after entering over the border from Tal Abyad, Syria, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. State-run Anadolu news agency reported Tal Abyad had fallen to a Turkish military offensive on Sunday. (AP Photo/Cavit Ozgul)

Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters celebrate in Akcakale, in Sanliurfa province advance, after entering over the border from Tal Abyad, Syria, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. State-run Anadolu news agency reported Tal Abyad had fallen to a Turkish military offensive on Sunday. (AP Photo/Cavit Ozgul)

“Turkish forces raided a prison in Tal Abyad earlier today, expecting to take custody of Daesh (Islamic State) terrorists held there,” a senior government official told reporters.

“Before they got there, (Kurdish) PKK/YPG terrorists set free the Daesh militants in an attempt to fuel chaos in the area,” he said, claiming that no doors had been broken in the prison.

Western governments have voiced concern that Turkey’s operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria would lead to Islamic State (IS) jihadists escaping from detention centres in the region.

Kurdish authorities said Sunday that 800 IS family members being held in a camp at Ain Issa had managed to flee due to Turkish bombing, and that five jihadists had escaped another prison on Friday.

Turkey claims the Kurdish forces deliberately set them free.

“The folly of trusting a terrorist group for keeping watch over another is exposed for all,” said the Turkish official.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier hit out at “disinformation” reports that Turkey was responsible for the escape of jihadists.

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

Some relatives of the IS families in the Ain Issa camp told AFP that Kurdish guards had forced the women and children to leave.

“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 NGOs, no more help,” she added.

President Donald Trump on Monday rejected criticism that his decision to remove US troops from the region was risking a mass escape of IS prisoners.

“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.

France, which accounts for the largest number of European jihadists in Syria, said Sunday it was “worried” by the situation and has called for an end to the Turkish offensive.

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