As Turkey wages a violent campaign against Kurdish fighters and civilians across northeastern Syria, Turkish-backed proxy forces with ties to extremist groups are deliberately releasing detainees affiliated with the Islamic State from unguarded prisons, two U.S. officials confirmed to Foreign Policy.
The claim pours cold water on U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion on Twitter that the Syrian Kurdish fighters tasked with guarding the prisons released the detainees to grab U.S. attention after the Defense Department ordered all U.S. troops to evacuate the region.
Backed by Turkey, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a decentralized band of Syrian rebels that has been linked to extremist groups, has launched a bloody assault on northeastern Syria, executing Kurdish prisoners and killing scores of unarmed civilians and Kurdish fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Over the weekend, a group of Turkish-backed forces ambushed a female Kurdish politician driving on the M4, the main highway through Syria and Iraq, forced her from the car, and killed her.
The group even deliberately targeted U.S. troops in Kobani on Friday, two U.S. officials, speaking on background to discuss sensitive operations, said separately. On Oct. 11, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Brook DeWalt confirmed reports that U.S. troops there had come under artillery fire from Turkey, adding that they were unharmed.