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Live Updates: Fighting Between ISIS and US-Backed Forces Spreads in Syria

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Live Updates: Fighting Between ISIS and US-Backed Forces Spreads in Syria

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Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

The battle over a prison in northeastern Syria has shed light on the plight of thousands of foreign children brought to the Islamic State caliphate in Syria by their parents and who have been detained for three years in camps and prisons in the region, abandoned by their own country.

Inmates at the besieged Sinaa prison in the city of Hasaka include boys as young as 12, some of whom are Syrians, Iraqis and around 150 non-Arab foreigners. Some had been transferred to prison after being deemed too old to stay in detention camps that held families of suspected Islamic State fighters.

Save the Children’s Syrian director Sonia Khush said those holding the children were responsible for their safety. But she also accused foreign governments of failing to repatriate their imprisoned citizens and children.

“The responsibility for everything that happens to these children also lies with foreign governments who thought they could simply abandon their Syrian national children,” Ms Khush said. “The risk of death or injury is directly linked to the refusal of these governments to bring them home.”

At its height, the Islamic State held territory the size of Britain straddling Iraq and Syria. About 40,000 foreigners, including children, traveled to Syria to fight or work for the caliphate. Thousands of them brought their young children. Other children were born there.

When the last piece of territory under the control of ISIS, in Baghuz, Syria, fell three years ago, the surviving women and young children were placed in detention camps while fighters and alleged boys, some as young as 10, were sent to prison.

The main detention camp for ISIS families, Al Hol, is squalid, overcrowded and dangerous, and lacks sufficient food, medical services and guards, fostering an increasingly radicalized segment of inmates who terrorize other residents of the camp.

When the boys in the camps become teenagers, they are usually transferred to Sinaa prison in Hasaka, where they are crammed into overcrowded cells with no access to sunlight. Food and medical care are insufficient, according to prison guards in the region.

When they reach the age of 18, the youths are placed in the general prison population, where wounded ISIS fighters sleep three to a bed. None of the non-Syrian detainees have been charged with a crime or faced trial.

Live Updates: Fighting Between ISIS and US-Backed Forces Spreads in Syria

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