SULAIMANI (ESTA) — U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have detained at least 71 suspected Islamic State (ISIS) militants in an ongoing security sweep at al-Hol camp in northeast Syria, the group’s spokesman said.
AP cited SDF spokesman Ali al-Hassan as saying those arrested so far included an ISIS religious leader inside the camp, a recruiter, a communications expert and a security officer.
The detainees were all Iraqi, aged between 18 and 62, the SDF spokesman told AP in a WhatsApp message on Wednesday.
“The [Islamic State] group is trying to reorganize through active cells in the camp,” AP quoted Hassan as saying.
The religious leader, a native of Iraq’s Anbar province, had joined militants long before ISIS was formed in 2014 and later became a judge with a self-styled ISIS tribunal, according to Hassan.
He continued his work with ISIS after hiding among residents of the camp, the SDF spokesman said, noting he was issuing religious edicts on who is to be killed inside the camp.
The SDF, consisted of Kurdish and Arab fighters, launched a “Humanitarian and Security Operation” in the camp on Sunday to root out ISIS sleeper cells, who the group says has killed at least 47 people in the camp.
The camp, controlled by the SDF, holds 62,000 people from many countries, according to the United Nations.
Some 9,462 foreign women and children are among more than 64,600 people detained at al-Hol and Roj camps, run by Syrian Kurdish authorities, where the majority of residents are Iraqi and Syrian nationals.