On Wednesday, a UK based non-profit organisation, Save the Children, claimed that the Islamic State fighters, who bombarded Gweiran prison in Syria last week attempting to free the thousands of ISIS detainees, are planning to use 700 boys it detained as human shields.
The organisation released a statement in which it said that it had received audio recordings from the boys detained, including one boy pleading for help. “All those involved in the fighting at Guweiran prison have responsibility to protect these children from harm,” said Sonia Khush, Director Save the Children.
700 children are trapped in the NE Syria prison seized by ISIS that is now a war zone. Some have been killed or injured. They are foreigners taken to the “caliphate” by their parents whose countries won’t take them back. Paying for their parents’ mistakes. https://t.co/NpdfU99X3v— Liz Sly (@LizSly) January 24, 2022
The statement comes a week after at least 300 people have been put to death in the ongoing prison battle between the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in northeastern Syria. In a well-planned attack, the ISIS fighters attacked the Gweiran prison in Al-Hasakah to free the ISIS detainees held there. Reportedly, ISIS detainees in the prison moved into a dormitory housing the teenage boys in an attempt to prevent an assault by Kurdish forces. According to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), several boys were killed and injured during the conflict.
The Ghweiran prison is one of the largest detention centres in northeast Syria, housing an estimated 5,000 male detainees, including suspected ISIS fighters from Iraq and Syria. Although the prison is run by western coalition-backed Kurdish forces, reports suggest that the prisoners are now in control of the main building of the jail, and have kept some prison staff as hostages.
🇸🇾🇺🇲 Footage of #ISIS terrorists escaping yesterday from a prison in the US-controlled portion of Al-Hasakah in #Syria.— Terror Alarm (@terror_alarm) January 21, 2022
🚨 The prison has 5000 ISIS terrorists from around the world, 200 of them in this video managed to escape. pic.twitter.com/bcpkD3oKi6
Within the next 24 hours of the attack, the ISIS militants also killed 11 Iraqi soldiers in an army base across the border. According to the reports, the severity of the crossfire also reported multiple deaths of Syrian boys caught in the attack. Reports mention that many of them have been apprehended by ISIS after their parents were made to join the Islamic State Fighter group years ago.
The children are in prison because they were recruited and trained by ISIS to become suicide bombers and for other military operations. They are part of the so-called “Cubs of the Caliphate”, a child army raised by the Islamic State. “These young people were trained by Isis [IS] for suicide attacks and other military operations. Now Isis has taken control of that part of the prison and we cannot fight or bomb them,” said SDF media head Farhad Shami.
The children include more than 150 foreigners of age 12 or more who are from non-Arab countries. The Syrian Forces had held the ISIS fighters responsible for the safety of children. However, the Save the Children organisation has urged the authorities to take all possible steps to ensure the safe repatriation of the detained children. Reports mention that the UNICEF has also called for the safe evacuation of trapped children and said that they are at immediate risk.
Khush meanwhile has slammed the countries to which children belong to, saying that the risk of death or injury of these children is directly linked to the governments’ refusal to take them home. “All foreign children must be repatriated, with their families, without any further delay. The international community cannot have the blood of any of these children on their hands,” she added.
According to the reports, ISIS is likely to launch more attacks throughout Africa in 2022. At present, ISIS controls less than 1 per cent of the African territory. However, without a more effective counter-terrorism strategy, ISIS is bound to gain a stronger foothold on the continent.