The US were indirectly detaining ISIS fighters in camps with the help of the Syrian Kurdish Army, a group who will now be targeted by Turkish military action. Given that Turkey is a NATO ally, as well as Trump’s eagerness to withdraw from Syria, Washington felt it had no choice but to pull its troops out of the region handing responsibility of imprisoned ISIS fighters over to Ankara. However, Kyle Orton – an analyst and expert on international terrorism – believes the handover of responsibility to Turkey will present an opportunity for detained ISIS fighters to escape the camps.
He told Express.co.uk: “The worry is that as Turkey come in and the US withdraw, some of these jihadists get away, and ISIS will try and break them out of prison because it has happened before.
“The prison breakout campaign of 2013 was a significant thing. They got some of their most important people out of that prison.”
A major prison break occurred on July 21, 2013, and media outlets reported a mass breakout of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq where at least 500 prisoners escaped.
A senior member of the security and defence committee in Parliament described the prisoners as mostly those who were “convicted senior members of al-Qaeda and had received death sentences”.
ISIS issued a statement on a jihadist forum claiming that they were responsible for organising and executing the prison break, which had taken months of preparation.
Mr Orton added: “The problem when you get new forces coming in is that they don’t know the terrain, gaps pop up so inevitably people get away.”
Mr Orton also indicates that Western countries have been very reluctant to even communicate with detained fighters of European and US origin, meaning repatriation at this stage seems unlikely.
Shamima Begum is the most notorious case regarding repatriation of ISIS loyalists. She was denied entry back into the UK and the Home Secretary Sajid Javid oversaw the revoking of her citizenship.
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Just this week, two British-born fighters known as ‘the Beatles’ are reportedly being moved into US custody.
Families and ordinary citizens in the camps are growing frustrated by their situation as well as what Mr Orton describes as “alien forces” to locals in al-Hawl, such as the US and Kurdish Army, having control over their livelihood in the camp located in northeastern Syria.
With recruitment opportunities growing and the possibility of escape plans looming, ISIS could benefit from renewed momentum having been on the verge of complete removal from Syria.