Islamic State jailbreak in Syria, army barracks attack in Iraq leave at least 39 dead

World 22 January 2022 02:07 (UTC +04:00)

More than 100 Islamic State militants assaulted the main prison holding suspected extremists, sparking a battle with US-backed Kurdish fighters that continued 24 hours later and left dozens dead on Friday as the group unleashed its biggest attack in Syria since the fall of its “caliphate” three years ago, Trend reports citing Euronews.

Across the border in Iraq, gunmen stormed an army barracks north of Baghdad before dawn on the same day while soldiers inside slept, killing 11 before escaping — the deadliest attack in months on Iraq’s military.

The bold assaults suggest militants have been revitalised after maintaining a low-level insurgency in Iraq and Syria over the past few years.

The group’s territorial control in Iraq and Syria was crushed by a years-long US-backed campaign, but its fighters continued with sleeper cells that have increasingly killed scores of Iraqis and Syrians in past months.

The attack in Syria targeted Gweiran Prison in the northeastern city of Hassakeh, the largest of around a dozen facilities run by US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces holding suspected IS fighters.

Gweiran holds some 5,000, including IS commanders and figures considered among the most dangerous, according to Farhad Shami, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF.

The forces' commander Mazloum Abadi said IS mobilised “most of its sleeper cells” to organise the jailbreak.

The militants, armed with heavy machine guns and vehicles rigged with explosives, attacked on Thursday evening, aiming to free their comrades, Shami said.

The fighting started with a large explosion around 7 pm, followed by two more blasts later, said one resident whose home overlooks the area.

Prisoners inside the facility rioted and tried to break out simultaneously as a car bomb went off outside and gunmen clashed with security forces, Shami said.

A car bomb hit a nearby petroleum depot, sparking a fire that still burned on Friday.