At least three Belgian members of the Islamic State (IS) were inside a Kurdish-controlled prison in Syra hit by a Turkish airstrike at the weekend, one of whom is believed to be on the run.
Between 750 and 800 IS prisoners are said to have escaped a detention centre in the Ain Issa makeshift camp in northeastern Syria after it was hit by an airstrike as Turkey’s onslaught in the area advanced.
Three female members of IS are believed to be among the prison’s former detainees, with a Flemish journalist on the ground confirming that at least one escaped.
“Spoke today with two Belgian wives of IS fighters in the North Syrian camp Ain Issa,” journalist Rudi Vranckx wrote on Twitter. “At least one Belgian woman has already fled, unclear where or with whom.”
Vranckx added that the women he spoke to were choosing to remain in the camp for the time being and that they had spoken of their fellow prisoner’s plans to contact human smugglers to escape the chaos, VRT reports.
The Turkish attack was launched just days after the US said it would pull troops for the region, in a move deemed a “stab in the back” by its allied Kurdish fighters who were key in the fall of the IS’ self-proclaimed caliphate in the war-torn country.
In a radio interview on Monday, federal public prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw expressed concern over the events in Syria, citing concerns over possible “uncontrolled returns” and insisting that the Belgian state should take responsibility for Belgian nationals the region.
On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dismissed reports of the prison break as “disinformation” aimed at stoking fears in the West.