More than 1,000 foreign jihadist prisoners in area targeted by Turkish operation - official

A Turkish official has told Reuters that more than 1,000 foreign jihadists are estimated to be held prisoner in areas targeted in Turkey’s military operation in northeast Syria.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey aims to clear from a “safe zone” it plans to establish up to 32 km south of its border, has been holding thousands of captives taken during the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).

The SDF and its local allies played a key role in the U.S.-backed coalition against ISIS, but Ankara views the Kurdish-led groups as a security threat since they are linked to outlawed militants in Turkey.

“It is estimated that there are approximately 1,200-1,500 Islamic State members in buildings being used as prisons inside the region where Turkey is carrying out its ... operation,” a Turkish official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“The official said Turkey had not received official notification, but cited information ‘from various sources in the field’ saying they included large numbers of foreign fighters from the United States, France, Germany and Belgium,” Reuters reported.

Turkey will not release the captives, but plans to engage in initiatives to send them back to their home countries, the official said.

There are 11,000 ISIS members held in 30 detention centres across northeast Syria, including 2,000 foreign fighters, a U.S. official told Reuters.

On Thursday, the U.S. military moved several dozen high-value ISIS members out of the Kurdish controlled prisons, moving them to a U.S. base in Iraq, the New York Times said.
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