Kurdish-led security forces sweeping the northern Syrian al-Hol refugee camp have uncovered a series of alarming discoveries including tortured women held in a prison controlled by the extremist jihadist Islamic State (ISIS), official and media reports said on Monday.
Three women were discovered “chained up” with signs of torture in the prison, said Farhad Shami, the head of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)’s media centre.
The multi-ethnic SDF was among several Kurdish-led armed groups from north and east Syria that were instrumental in defeating ISIS after the jihadist militants captured much of the region in 2014-2015.
Located near the Syria-Iraq border in the northeast Syrian Hasekeh province, the crowded al-Hol refugee camp that holds up to 56,000 residents, has been described as a “tinderbox” due to a sizeable presence of ISIS fighters and their family members. In August, the SDF launched a security operation, dubbed “Humanity and Security”, which aimed to root out the camp’s ISIS elements.
The “Internal Security Forces and the Women’s Protection Units found this morning 3 handcuffed women with signs of brutal torture in a place designated for torture,” Hawar news agency reported on Monday.
The ISIS prison was the latest in a series of discoveries reported by the security forces in the camp. In nine days, the operation has arrested 139 members of ISIS sleeper cells, discovered a tunnel network, seized ammunition, explosive devices, and materials used to make explosives, and even uncovered a military uniform with Turkish army markings, independent Syrian news agency North Press reported on Monday.
Among the ISIS members were two Iraqis, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah and Mahmoud Mikhlif Talib Shaaban, who said that Turkey had actively assisted ISIS fighters in a network of safe-houses, Hawar reported.
Most wounded fighters “from the ranks of ISIS are receiving treatment in Turkey, and there are designated guesthouses, in addition to pay cash to serve the wounded,” Hawar quoted Shaaban as saying.
Turkey, one of the main supporters of Syrian rebel groups opposing President Bashar al-Assad, has faced multiple accusations of supporting ISIS and other jihadist groups widely viewed as terrorist organisations.
In 2013, the BBC reported that al-Qaeda jihadists were being welcomed in Turkish safe-houses, citing the man in charge of a saf-ehouse in Turkey’s southeastern Hatay province.