The return of ISIS.. What is behind the events of the Syrian prison of Hasaka?
A few days ago, the horrific events in the “Al-Sina’a” prison in the Ghweran neighborhood of Al-Hasakah brought us back to 2013, when he was attacked The notorious Abu Ghraib prison In Iraq, more than 500 members of the organization were released. That attack resulted in the organization’s missile rise between 2013-2014, its seizure of Syrian and Iraqi lands, and, finally, the establishment of the “caliphate state” over a vast geographical area.
The new escape from the Syrian prison, in which dozens of people were killed, raised the question about whether the group was ready to launch fateful operations in the geographical area ruled by the Kurds stationed in the north-east of Syria. The incident also shed light on the efforts of the international coalition led by the United States to fight the organization, and the efforts The local ally is the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). More clearly, the escape operation revealed the existence of great challenges in the process of eliminating ISIS remnants, who showed a superior ability to adapt to the changes and security conditions in Iraq and Syria.
then increaseDay after day, the possibility of the re-emergence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, after the events of the industrial prison confirmed that the organization whose members we believed would remain behind the walls of fortified prisons is capable of launching coordinated attacks, and that its sleeper cells may re-emerge as a more serious threat than before. .
The return of the bloody events of “ISIS”
Since thousands of ISIS fighters fled after their defeat in 2019 to the remote shadow areas between Iraq and Syria, the organization has repeatedly pledged to free its captives from the prisons where they were held. To this end, the organization has carried out about 22 operations targeting prisons that have turned into the scene of deadly attacks in Syria, most of which are located in the geographical enclave controlled by “SDF” fighters, according to data from the research company “Jihad Analytics” specialized in analyzing the activities of extremist movements.
There in northeastern Syria, specifically on the outskirts of the city of Hasaka, the Kurdish militias that participated with the United States and other countries to fight the Islamic State have transformed a compound previously designated as a training institute into one of the most dangerous prisons in Syria, where about 3,500 ISIS members were imprisoned in addition to hundreds of children. This prison, the largest of the 14 detention centers under the authority of the SDF, was called the “Sina’a Prison”. For the past three years, ISIS prisoners did not give up trying to escape, and their last (failed) attempt came in November 2021, but the Syrian Democratic Forces thwarted the attempt, which included detonating car bombs and smuggling weapons.
ثمَّ Came The most dangerous attempt to escape from prison was on January 20, 2022, and according to “Amaq Agency”, a news platform affiliated with the Islamic State, about 100 elements of the organization attacked the vicinity of Al-Sina’a prison after they breached four barriers in the security and military area of the “SDF” ‘, near the bases of the US-led coalition, then they blew up the prison wall with a car bomb and stormed it. ISIS elements were not satisfied with that, but they penetrated into the city of Hasaka, where violence spread to the neighboring Ghuwairan and Zohour areas, then stormed the homes of civilians and killed some of them.
But after six days of bloody battles, the Kurds announced take them back Full control of the prison, after they surrounded the gunmen and forced them to surrender, and then they appeared in long queues exhausted in the prison yard after their surrender, and the sleeper cells of the organization were pursued in the neighboring neighborhoods. The process of control would not have taken place without the help of the Americans, as armored vehicles, attack helicopters and air raids were used in the battle, in addition to to share 200 American soldiers in combat.
The Syrian journalist “Samer Al-Ahmad”, from Hasaka, assures us that the attack showed a new method, different from the old tactics of the “Islamic State” based on military control, which actually ended with the defeat of the organization in the Battle of Baghouz in the spring of 2019. A year ago, the organization resorted to a new strategy known as ISIS. As the “runaway wolf”, it relies on a surprise attack with the aim of inflicting losses and seizing weapons, not controlling the land.
Al-Ahmad added in his interview with “Maidan” that the aim of the Al-Hasakah prison incident was to free the organization’s leaders who were detained in prison. Dozens of the organization’s leaders and members were liberated and transferred to a safe place in the Syrian desert: “Until today we cannot say that the operation is over, the event. The dangerous security situation is that the organization changed its strategy in dealing with the various forces of the conflict in Syria, which will affect the strategies of the various international forces involved in the Syrian and Iraqi scene and lead to their mobilization.
ISIS shakes the throne of Kurdish power
with persistence The battle so far, the fate of 850 children under the age of 12 who were detained in Al-Sina’a prison is remarkable. And the only challenge facing the Kurdish forces was the possibility of Recruitment Children are not only shields, but some of these children have received training in suicide attacks and operations that pave the way for ISIS fighters to easily infiltrate civilian areas.
In the end, the Al-Sina’a prison incident demonstrated the fragility of the SDF’s security systems, and Samer Al-Ahmad attributes this fragility to the inability of the Kurdish forces to form a complete bridge of trust with the American forces on the one hand, and with the region’s tribes and Arab residents on the other hand, especially in the southern region Al-Hasakah and eastern Deir ez-Zor, where ISIS cells are currently active, and were the last strongholds of ISIS before its fall. Al-Ahmad said that this region must be dealt with a different strategy by involving its people in managing their region and improving their economic conditions, adding: “In addition to the importance of focusing on the security and military aspect, we must focus on building a bridge with the population through administrative, economic and security policies, including the formation of security forces.” From the people of this area, which blocks the way for any attempt to penetrate the area by the organization’s cells.”
Moreover, Anas Shawakh, a researcher specializing in the affairs of the eastern region in Syria, told us that Russia has a desire to involve the Syrian regime in the operations of combating the “Islamic State” organization, whether in prison management or in security operations against the organization in which the coalition forces are completely dependent on the “SDF.” Which led to a discrepancy between the Russian strategy and its American counterpart. After the recent attack, the Russian side began to exploit the security breach suffered by the SDF and the coalition forces, as “Russia considers that the SDF and the international coalition forces failed to fight the organization and prevent its last attack, It is expected that the Russian side will make more use of this attack in the coming days by strengthening its positions.”
One of the most important challenges facing the SDF now is the declining confidence of the local community and the international community in it as a result of the security breach it was subjected to, with the possibility of it being repeated in its ongoing war with the organization, especially since this breach led to a state of distrust within the organizational structure of SDF. itself between the elements on the one hand and the leadership on the one hand, according to what “Shawakh” indicated, which is added to the state of resentment among a large proportion of the population in its areas of control as a result of its practices against the population, operations of demographic change in favor of the Kurds, and forced recruitment, a situation that constitutes a fertile environment for ISIS to establish penetration operations. It is credited to the SDF that it was quick to respond militarily, as it mobilized 10,000 fighters on the two days of the battle in al-Hasakah, and regained the momentum of international support it had lost since 2019, especially with the continued Turkish pressure to withdraw its support.
Washington and recalculation with ISIS
“The coalition is confident in its assessment that the latest escape attempt from ISIS will not pose a significant threat to Iraq or the region.”
(Statement of the Joint Task Force for Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led international coalition fighting ISIS)
Nearly three years after ISIS lost the last patch of its territory, the Al-Sinaa prison incident came to remind the world of the organization’s ability to doing business Widespread violence, although Washington still maintains about 700 soldiers in northeastern Syria to help the “SDF” fight the remnants of ISIS, the prison incident revealed The large space provided by the US withdrawal in October 2019 for the organization to regroup. In the areas controlled by the SDF, especially in Deir ez-Zor with the Arab majority, ISIS elements share the revenues of the oil produced in the temporary refineries with the residents, steal their sheep, and build a network of collaborators to facilitate their work.
However, the American forces, which announced that their mission after 2019 was to weaken ISIS and prevent its re-emergence, are now seeing with their own eyes incidents similar to the Al-Sina’a prison, albeit less serious. وثَّق Rojava Information Center In November alone, 14 attacks were claimed by ISIS, andIt was al-Hol camp The famous, which shelters about 10,000 women and children from ISIS, has been the scene of deadly attacks against Kurdish forces, as well as the organization’s recent operations that targeted soldiers inside Iraqi territory.
The prison battle revealed that the efforts of the US-led coalition, which provided millions of dollars in funding to help improve security in detention centers and train Kurdish forces, have not addressed many of the humanitarian and security problems in the region. The Kurds With thousands of ISIS members and their families in prisons and detention camps that were supposed to be temporary, most countries refused to take back their citizens from them, and extremism continued to thrive in those prisons that Reports have spoken Many human rights defenders expressed their miserable condition for the thousands of men and boys who are being held in them.
That incident served as a wake-up call to the international community that ISIS is not over yet, and that its elements are able to return to respond at the time and place of their choosing. Although it is unlikely that the attack at the present time will lead to a fundamental change in the coalition’s strategy to fight the organization, it will lead to revisions, as explained by the researcher Anas Shawakh, “including security, military and logistical measures in order to protect and secure the international coalition forces from the danger of attacks, such as strengthening the international coalition forces In the coming period, and large-scale security operations will likely be carried out, in which the international coalition with the “SDF” will participate.
In his interview with Meydan, Shawakh expects that the coalition will make more security and military equipment to protect its interests that may be the target of ISIS attacks, such as the military bases where the coalition forces are stationed. The coalition forces for their strategy in combating the organization, especially with regard to its ability to penetrate the “SDF”, adding: “This penetration is sufficient to prove the organization’s ability to carry out other operations, operations that will not necessarily be against prisons only, but will target strategic interests or important sites of the “SDF.” ‘Or even to the international coalition forces, and it is expected that we will witness other operations of the organization soon, especially in the locations reached by the elements who escaped from prison, namely Raqqa, the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor and the southern countryside of Hasaka.”
In the end, it can be said that we are still far from comparing what is currently happening with what happened between 2013-2014 when ISIS began to rise, but what happened in the past days will not go unnoticed, as ISIS elements seem to be regrouping , which portends a bloody revolution that will continue to remind the United States and its allies of their persistent weaknesses since declaring its victory over the organization three years ago, and will continue to remind them that there are fundamental questions regarding the fight against terrorism and the establishment of stability in Syria and Iraq that no one has answered, most notably the relations between Arabs and Kurds.