•   
  •   

US News ISIS eyes breakout opportunity as Turkish forces batter Kurds

09:50  18 october  2019
09:50  18 october  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

As Many As 100,000 May Have Already Been Displaced by Turkish Offensive in Syria, Rights Groups Say

  As Many As 100,000 May Have Already Been Displaced by Turkish Offensive in Syria, Rights Groups Say The International Rescue Committee has also warned that as many as 300,000 people could be displaced by Turkey's military offensive.As the Turkish offensive began this week, the International Rescue Committee had warned that the lives of as many as two million civilians, many of whom had already survived trauma at the hands of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), as well as multiple displacements, could be at risk.

a factory with smoke coming out of it: Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn on Oct. 14, days after Turkey launched a military operation against Kurdish forces. © Ozan Kose/Afp Via Getty Images Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn on Oct. 14, days after Turkey launched a military operation against Kurdish forces. The Islamic State is racing to capitalize on the deteriorating security situation in northern Syria, stepping up attacks on prisons as well as on the now-weakened Kurdish militia that served as the vanguard in the U.S.-led war against the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate, intelligence officials and terrorism experts say.

Despite Thursday’s announced cease-fire, Turkey’s week-old incursion into northeast Syria is already proving to be a propaganda windfall for the extremist group, which in recent months had been making faltering attempts at a comeback in parts of eastern Syria controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, the analysts said.

Bloodshed, betrayal and a huge battlefield: 24 hours in northeastern Syria

  Bloodshed, betrayal and a huge battlefield: 24 hours in northeastern Syria I cannot remember a sequence of events, bloodshed and geopolitical machinations in a single day that involved so many countries and so many people. In a single day. We were on the road again, had been for four days, but as each hour passed, our ability to move safely in Kurdish northeast Syria lessened.We overtook cars, trucks, flatbeds, and pick-ups laden with belongings, but there were fewer and fewer. Almost anyone who could, had already left the border lands between Syria and Turkey.On the side of a road, near a truck stop, we came across five lorries, they were full of families.

The Islamic State’s official ­media arm taunted the SDF on Thursday, calling it an abandoned American ally and warning that further attacks were coming. 

“The withdrawal of the U.S. from northern Syria and the destabilization that has ensued has created a perfect situation for ISIS to capitalize on,” said Rita Katz, executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group, a private firm that tracks online extremist activity. 

Related: There is no plan B if IS prisoners break free (Atlantic)

Turkey-backed rebel fighters drive into Syria. © Reuters Turkey-backed rebel fighters drive into Syria.

An editorial in the Islamic State’s al-Naba newsletter said the Kurds were only the latest of Washington’s allies to be dumped after they were no longer needed.

“Once they [Americans] attained what they sought from them, they handed them over to the Rafidha,” the essay said, “so we took vengeance on them.” Rafidha is a pejorative term used by Sunni extremists for Shiite Muslims in general, and most particularly for predominantly Shiite Iran, which was among the winners in the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria’s northern border region.

Turkey agrees to pause fighting, but not to withdraw forces from northern Syria

  Turkey agrees to pause fighting, but not to withdraw forces from northern Syria Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that Turkey had agreed to suspend its military operations in northeast Syria for five days while Syrian Kurdish fighters left the area, immediately raising questions about whether the agreement was a diplomatic breakthrough or a capitulation to the Turkish government. Emerging from close to five hours of deliberations with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Pence said that the American delegation had achieved the cease-fire it had hoped to broker in the hastily organized trip to Ankara, the Turkish capital.

Since Turkey’s Oct. 9 invasion, the terrorist group’s supporters have celebrated the release of Islamic State fighters and family members from two detention camps operated by the SDF, while claiming responsibility for attacks on other facilities. On Thursday, the Islamic State boasted of a fresh release of captives following a reported assault on an SDF base near Raqqa, the group’s former capital. That attack killed six Kurdish fighters and led to the “freeing of multiple Muslim women,” according to a statement issued by the Islamic State’s media arm. The incident was said to have occurred in Mahmudli, a village near a large refugee camp for displaced Syrians. 

Gallery: Tensions spike in Syria as Trump withdraws US soldiers (Photos)

Pro-Islamic State social media sites are exulting over the rapid turn of events, and prominent commentators are calling for fresh attacks on prisons to free thousands of Islamist militants held by Kurdish forces. Hundreds of Islamic State family members and a handful of fighters are believed to have escaped from SDF-run detention camps amid the turmoil of the past week.

Residents of northeast Syria city pelt departing US troops

  Residents of northeast Syria city pelt departing US troops AKCAKALE, Turkey (AP) — Angry over the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, residents of a Kurdish-dominated city pelted departing American military vehicles with potatoes Monday as they drove through. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said U.S. troops will stay in eastern Syria to protect Kurdish-held oil fields for at least the coming weeks and he was discussing options to keep them there. A video by the Kurdish news agency showed a convoy of armored vehicles driving through the northeastern city of Qamishli. People in the street hurled potatoes at the vehicles, shouting, "No America," and "America liar," in English."Like rats, America is running away," one man shouted in Arabic.

“Prison breaks are happening. The imminent return of the Islamic State is assured by the command of Allah,” one commentator declared in a pro-Islamic State forum on the social media site Telegram. The writer cited the escapes as evidence that extremist militants are “taking advantage of the war between the Kurds and the Turks.”

Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria has triggered a spike in Islamic State attacks against the SDF, which is scrambling to defend its strongholds against an air and ground assault by Turkish troops and Turkish-backed militias. Islamic State websites reported 27 successful or attempted attacks against the SDF in the week following the invasion, compared with an average of 10 attacks over each of the previous three weeks, according to a tally by SITE.

President Donald Trump speaks to the media about Turkey's agreement to a 'ceasefire' in Syria. © Thomson Reuters President Donald Trump speaks to the media about Turkey's agreement to a 'ceasefire' in Syria.

SDF officials have acknowledged the increase in violence, which included a double suicide bombing this week at a restaurant in the border town of Qamishli that killed three people and wounded nine others.

On pro-Islamic State message boards, supporters of the terrorist group said the attacks were partial revenge for the deaths of thousands of militants and the destruction of the caliphate, which occupied nearly half of Syria before being driven to collapse by SDF fighters backed by U.S. warplanes and Special Forces operators. One anonymous post claimed that it was easier to carry out attacks because Kurdish forces are preoccupied with defending towns and villages against the Turkish forces.

Russia, Turkey seal power in northeast Syria with new accord

  Russia, Turkey seal power in northeast Syria with new accord ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Russia and Turkey reached an agreement Tuesday that would cement their power in Syria, deploying their forces across nearly its entire northeastern border to fill the void left by President Donald Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces. ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Russia and Turkey reached an agreement Tuesday that would cement their power in Syria, deploying their forces across nearly its entire northeastern border to fill the void left by President Donald Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces.

“The chaos is allowing brothers to plant IEDs [roadside bombs] more freely” because there are fewer SDF fighters around to stop them, it said. A translation of the Arabic postings was provided by SITE.

While a weakened force in Syria, the Islamic State regards the eastern half of the country — including Raqqa — as “critical ground,” Katz said.

At the very least, the terrorist group appears to be seizing opportunities to project itself as vital and active, European and Middle Eastern officials said.

A Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighter stands guard as they wait to cross into Syria. © Reuters A Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighter stands guard as they wait to cross into Syria.

“They would be stupid not to exploit it and give the impression — even if it’s just an impression — that they are regaining some kind of strength,” said a European security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence assessments.

U.S. and European intelligence officials had warned of a possible Islamic State resurgence in the aftermath of the invasion, which Turkey says is intended to prevent the border region from becoming a haven for anti-

Turkish terrorists. Turkish tanks and warplanes crossed into Syria three days after the Trump administration announced that it was withdrawing a few dozen U.S. troops and Special Forces operators from the area.

Turkish shelling in north-eastern Syria. © AP Turkish shelling in north-eastern Syria. Turkey regards the SDF as an armed branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a militant group that seeks self-rule for ethnic Kurds.

The SDF was an essential U.S. ally in the fight against the caliphate and has continued to battle Islamic State cells while maintaining prisons and detention camps housing tens of thousands of fighters and their family members, many of them foreign nationals.

There has been scant information about conditions in the camps over the past week, but Kurdish officials have independently confirmed that nearly 800 people escaped from a facility for Islamic State family members in the Kurdish town of Ain Issa, a breakout that “occurred following Turkish shelling,” according to a report Tuesday by the pro-SDF Rojava Information Center.

The Cease-Fire in Syria Worked (More or Less)

  The Cease-Fire in Syria Worked (More or Less) Whatever the agreement was, it left the status quo in place, at least for the time being.The five-day period of the agreement did include clashes, which U.S. officials downplayed, but it also stanched a chaotic period following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he was pulling American forces out of Syria, in which scores were killed and thousands were displaced.

The center said five male Islamic State fighters escaped from a second detention camp as inmates were being transferred to another facility. Their whereabouts remained unknown.

“The situation grows increasingly tense and unstable as more [Kurdish] security forces are moved to the front,” the report said. It claimed that Islamic State supporters detonated a car bomb outside a third facility in an apparent attempt to free inmates inside.

A new analysis by a Belgian think tank estimates that 12,000 Islamic State fighters and family members are in SDF custody. The latter group includes about 430 adults and 700 children from European countries, according to the report by the Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations.

Escapees from Kurdish facilities could eventually make their way back to their home countries, said Thomas Renard, an Egmont senior research fellow.

“Some fighters will escape and others will be released,” perhaps deliberately, he said. While some may be recaptured or killed, others might follow the path of comrades who were smuggled into southern Turkey and continued to travel north.

“That some returned undetected cannot be excluded,” he said, “nor can it be excluded in the current chaos.”

Terrorism experts say the prospect of further escapes has generated particular excitement among Islamists because of the prominent role played by prisons in several of the most storied episodes in the Islamic State’s history. The terrorist group’s rise in 2013 gained momentum after militants stormed Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison in July of that year, freeing some 500 inmates, including dozens of terrorists on death row. A year later, the group controlled a swath of territory across Iraq and Syria the size of Britain.

Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi spent nearly a year in Camp Bucca, a U.S. detention camp in southern Iraq that served as a kind of training and recruitment center for the terrorist group he would eventually lead.

“There’s a mythology surrounding the liberation of the Muslim inmate,” said Jesse Morton, a former extremist and co-founder of Parallel Networks, a nonprofit group that seeks to combat online radicalization. “They’re spinning it online, because prisons have always been a key part of their propaganda. What is happening now in Syria is their Camp Bucca.”

joby.warrick@washpost.com

souad.mekhennet@washpost.com

MSN UK is committed to Empowering the Planet and taking urgent action to protect our environment. We’re supporting Friends of the Earth to help solve the climate crisis - please give generously here or find out more about our campaign here.

The Cease-Fire in Syria Worked (More or Less) .
Whatever the agreement was, it left the status quo in place, at least for the time being.The five-day period of the agreement did include clashes, which U.S. officials downplayed, but it also stanched a chaotic period following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he was pulling American forces out of Syria, in which scores were killed and thousands were displaced.

—   Share news in the SOC. Networks
usr: 3
This is interesting!