Kurdish-led forces in northeast Syria have arrested nine people, including suspected members of ISIL (ISIS), during a security sweep in a sprawling camp in northeastern Syria housing families of fighters.
The campaign by nearly 5,000 of the US-backed Kurdish-led forces came on the heel of a spike in violence in al-Hol camp, home to more than 60,000 people, many of them supporters or families of ISIL fighters.
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The forces, in a statement published on the Kurdish Hawar news agency, said they arrested nine people, including an Iraqi ISIL member who worked in recruitment.
Violence has increased in the past months, where 47 people were killed by ISIL supporters inside the camp since the start of the year, the statement said.
According to Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 30 people were arrested in the sweeping operation in and around the al-Hol camp.
“The arrests are ongoing” as part of a days-long operation by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is the Kurdish regional administration’s main fighting force, the Kurdish YPG militia and a local police force, Abdul Rahman said.
Syrians and foreigners “suspected of supporting ISIL” have been arrested, he said.
SDF officials confirmed the operation, with one of them saying it would run at least 10 days.
A video released by the YPG showed the militia marching off a group of men towards vehicles.
Separately, the spokesman for the US-led Coalition Colonel Wayne Marotto said on Twitter the Kurdish-led forces are also enrolling residents in the camps using biometric technology to help “maintain security by identifying [those residing in the camp] connected to terrorist activities”.
Marotto said the campaign is aimed at improving the safety and security of those living in the camp.
The #Asayish and #SDF conduct bio-enrollment, helping to maintain security by identifying those in #alhawl camp connected to terrorist activities, during an operation focused on improving the safety and security of those who live and work in al-Hawl and #defeatdaesh. https://t.co/PA8yRaYLIY
— OIR Spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto (@OIRSpox) March 28, 2021
It has been two years since the US-led coalition captured the last sliver of territory held by ISIL, ending their self-declared caliphate that covered large parts of Iraq and Syria.
The brutal war took several years and left US-allied Kurdish authorities in control of eastern and northeast Syria, with a small presence of several hundred American forces still deployed there.
Since then, remaining ISIL fighters have gone underground in the Syrian-Iraqi border region and continued to launch attacks.
Thousands of wives, widows, children and other family members or supporters of ISIL who had stayed in the last sliver of land the group held were moved to the camp or prisons.
The majority of the residents of al-Hol are Iraqis and Syrians but they also include other nationalities.
The camp has been chaotic, with the hardcore fighters among its population enforcing their will on others and seeking to prevent them from cooperating with Kurdish authorities guarding it.