On the night of Thursday 20 January, ISIS attacked Hasakah’s Provincial Internal Security Forces detention centre, Sina’a prison, in Ghuwayran (Xiwêran) region, northeast Syria, aiming to free detained ISIS fighters. This attack was the biggest and most violent attack on a populated area since the elimination of ISIS as a controlling power in March 2019.
The head of the Office of Media and Information of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Farhad Shami gave his evaluations of the attack to ANHA saying:
“This wasn’t just a plan to free ISIS gangs from prison. No matter how many gangs escape from prison, they will eventually be recaptured by our forces. The plan put in place here was the third great plan for the Middle East. ”
“The main purpose of the attacks was to reinvigorate ISIS,” Shami said, adding that the government media of both Turkey and Damascus were acting like spokespersons for ISIS. He also noted that international forces remained silent in the face of the attacks.
“(ISIS) gangs in prisons are the most dangerous gangs. In recent days, the world public has been horrified to hear of the (ISIS) gangs’ attempt to escape from the prison. There were no prisons in our area where we could put these gangs. Sina’a Prison used to be a school. We had no other option so we put them there. This prison was temporary, so we needed another prison. We have established Ash-Shaddadi (Şedadê) Prison and these dangerous gangs will be sent there in the coming days.”
Farhad Shami said the attack was not a local attack but a strategic attack by ISIS.
“During the first days of ISIS, there were attacks on Mosul and al-Fallujah prisons. Al-Qaeda members were broken out of the prisons and formed their own organisations. We are now considering this attack on Hasakah prison within this framework. If our forces had not stopped them nearly 5,000 gang members would have escaped from prison. There was a bigger plan behind it and it wasn’t just about freeing detained ISIS gangs.”
Shami gave detailed information about the attack.
“About 100 ISIS members involved in the attack came from outside Al-Hasakah” Shamî said.
“We’ve surrounded the prison, and most of the prison is under control now. As a result, gang members from inside and outside the country will be behind bars. Those who are not arrested will also be killed. They have no choice but to surrender or be killed.”
Noting that Turkey carried out attacks on Tall Tamr, Sinjar and Ain Issa at the same time as the attacks on Sina’a Prison, Shami said:
“It is no coincidence that these attacks took place at the same time, this was coordinated.”
“The issue of ISIS cannot be addressed only by security, political and ideological facts. The ISIS’s ideology and the sources that feed it need to be dried up. ISIS is taking advantage of the occupied territories. Therefore, an international tribunal should be established in the region to prosecute these gangs and solve the problem.”
Meanwhile the curfew declared by the SDF for the safety of civilians also continues in Hasakah as clashes continue between ISIS gangs and SDF forces.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “at least 77 IS members and 39 Kurdish fighters, including internal security forces, prison guards and counter-terrorism forces have been killed” in the attack that started on Thursday.
“The Observatory asserts that the death toll was even higher, and the real number of fatalities has not yet been accurately identified, as the fate of dozens members on both sides is still unknown. In addition, there were many people who sustained serious injuries.”
The SDF General Command later announced “Al-Sina’a prison is under our forces’ control. We managed to kill 175 ISIS militants in three days.”
The US Department of State also published a press statement about the incident.
“We commend the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for their swift response and continued commitment to the fight against ISIS in northeast Syria. This attack highlights the importance of, and the need to fully fund, the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS’s initiatives to improve the secure and humane detention of ISIS fighters, including by strengthening detention facility security.”
On the other hand, the Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement, saying that they considered the SDF operation against ISIS a war crime because it displaced civilians.
“the actions of the SDF caused the displacement of thousands of residents from Hasakah governorate and increased their suffering,” the statement said.
The statement also called for “the withdrawal of US forces from northeastern Syria and Turkish forces from the northwest.”