UNICEF warns child inmates at risk in Ghweiran prison clashes


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SULAIMANI — UNICEF warned in a statement on Sunday (January 23) nearly 850 juvenile inmates are at risk in the Ghweiran prison in Hasaka, where Islamic State (ISIS) inmates and outside sleeper cells have staged a massive break-out attempt.

"As fighting continues, the risk for children increases, including to be harmed or forcibly recruited,” UNICEF Syria representative Bo Viktor Nylund said in a statement. "Violence might also spread to other prisons, inside the camps and local communities.”

A statement from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) cited by North Press Agency noted the presence of children used as "human shields” was a big obstacle to Kurdish forces in their effort to put down the insurrection in the prison, which began on Thursday night.

The minors are housed in special dormitories in the prison in order for them to be deradicalized and rehabilitated, the SDF said. North Press put the figure of minors in the prison at 700. Al-Sinaa prison in Ghweiran is estimated to have a population of thousands of inmates.

The SDF said ISIS will be held responsible if harm comes to the children, who were referred to as "Cubs of the Caliphate.”

UNICEF said in its statement some of the minors under detention were as young as 12 and called on the release of child-detainees, saying they should only be held as a "measure of last resort.”

Rojava Information Center (RIC) said only pockets of ISIS militants are believed to remain in the neighborhoods of Ghweiran and al-Zuhour in Hasaka.

Clashes have been ongoing over the past three days. SDF said at least 175 ISIS militants have been killed in the battle to regain control of the area and prevent the breakout, according to RIC.

(NRT Digital Media)