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Syria: Intense fighting on for days after Isis tries to break inmates out of prison

Clashes have been reported in northeastern Syria for more than three days after Islamic State (Isis) militants tried to break out suspected extremists from a Kurdish-run prison.

On Thursday, more than 100 Isis fighters attacked the Gweiran prison in Hassakeh, trying to free over 3,000 allies held by US Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The fighters killed 17 members of the security forces. At least 70 inmates have also died in the attack.

By Sunday, fighting between the SDF, backed by US airstrikes, and the militants had raged on for days. The SDF had tightened its siege of the prison, which has been overtaken by prisoners, and is trying to regain control of nearby neighbourhoods.

The SDF, which is an arm of the Syrian Kurdish-ked administrative authority in charge of Syria’s northeast, said initially that 89 suspected militants who escaped were arrested and 23 were killed. But fighting continued after a separate group of inmates staged a fresh escape attempt on Friday afternoon.

The Rojava Information Centre, a local monitoring group in northeast Syria, reported that five Isis fighters managed to successfully escape the prison. They remain at large.

According to the Syrian Observatory, “at least 77 IS members and 39 Kurdish fighters, including internal security forces, prison guards and counter-terrorism forces, have been killed in violence inside and outside the prison since the start of the attack”.

Isis also claimed in a video on Saturday that many of its members had been freed in the attack on the prison. The footage also showed the militants holding a number of hostages.

The prison break in Syria is believed to be the largest since the militants lost the territory they held nearly three years ago.

Footage reportedly taken outside the prison and shared online showed intense bursts of heavy automatic weapon fire and smoke billowing from several locations.

Farhad Shami, a spokesperson for the Kurdish-led SDF, told The Independent that the prisoners had first rioted and tried to escape late Thursday, while gunmen from a nearby district attacked from the outside. There were also reports a car bomb was set off near the prison gates, helping dozens of inmates flee.

Additional reporting by agencies

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