Hundreds of people affiliated with the Islamic State escaped a camp where they were being held on Sunday after Turkish forces approached the Kurdish-held town, Kurdish officials said.
About 950 ISIS-connected foreigners managed to leave the camp, located in Ain Eissa, roughly 20 miles south of the border, after detainees apparently attacked the camp’s guards and gates and fled, the Kurdish-led administration said in a statement.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, said Turkish warplanes struck villages near the camp on Sunday. They didn’t provide the exact number of residents who fled the camp, but said clashes broke out between Turkey-backed Syrian fighters and Kurdish forces.
Roughly 12,000 people, including nearly 1,000 foreign women with links to ISIS and their children, live in the camp. The town of Ain Eissa is also home to one of the largest U.S.-led coalition bases in northeastern Syria.
The Kurdish forces, who partnered with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS, say they may not be able to maintain detention facilities holding thousands of militants as they struggle to stem the Turkish advance.
Turkish forces have been pushing toward the town as part of their offensive against Kurdish-led forces — fighters which Turkey believes are terrorists because of their links to the insurgency in its southeast. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey won’t stop until the Syrian Kurdish forces withdraw at least 20 miles from the border.
Turkey launched an operation to carve out a “safe zone” along the border earlier this week after President Trump moved U.S. forces aside, saying he was committed to getting out of America’s “endless” wars.
On Saturday, the president announced the release of $50 million in aid to human rights groups and other aid organizations in Syria in an apparent attempt to counter the criticism he’s received about the pullout.
“Other presidents would not be doing that, they’d be spending a lot more money but on things that wouldn’t make you happy,” Trump said while addressing a gala dinner. “The U.S. condemns the persecution of Christians and we pledge our support to Christians all over.
Fox News’ Morgan Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.