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7 Islamic State militants escape jail in NE Syria; 4 caught

7 Islamic State militants escape jail in NE Syria; 4 caught

BEIRUT (AP) — Seven members of the Islamic State group escaped from a small prison in northeast Syria on Sunday, with four recaptured and a search continuing for the remaining three, said Syrian state media and an official with the main Kurdish-led U.S.-backed force in the region.

The militants fled from a jail on the edge of the town of Al-Hol, home to a sprawling camp where tens of thousands of IS wives, widows and children live, said state news agency SANA and a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, Mervan Qamishlo. The prison is separate from the camp.

Kurdish authorities currently operate more than two dozen detention facilities scattered across northeastern Syria, holding about 10,000 IS fighters. Among the detainees are some 2,000 foreigners whose home countries have refused to repatriate them, including about 800 Europeans.

Qamishlo said the SDF had caught four escaped inmates and were conducting search operations to find the others. He did not give the nationalities of the militants.

Earlier this month, imprisoned IS members rioted and took control of a prison in the northeastern Syrian of Hassakeh for several hours, until Kurdish-led authorities negotiated an end to the unrest.

In late March, a two-day riot and takeover of the same prison in Hassakeh allowed four extremists to escape, although they were caught a day later.

IS extremists have stepped up their attacks in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as both countries grapple with coronavirus.