Hundreds of ISIS supporters escape amid clashes between Turkish, Kurdish forces

Hundreds of ISIS supporters escape amid clashes between Turkish, Kurdish forces
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Hundreds of relatives of ISIS militants on Sunday reportedly escaped a Kurdish-established detention camp in northern Syria following attacks by Turkish-led forces.

The Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria said in a statement that 950 ISIS supporters fled a displaced-persons camp in Ain Issa, a city about 35 miles from the Turkish border, The Associated Press reported. The figure has yet to be confirmed. Other news outlets have reported that more than 700 relatives of ISIS were able to flee. 

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The escapes occurred as Turkish airstrikes hit the surrounding area and as clashes between the two sides escalated. 

Jelal Ayaf, a senior official at the camp, told local reporters that 859 individuals fled the section of the camp housing foreigners, the AP noted. He noted that while some were recaptured, people in other sections of the camp escaped. The situation is "very volatile," Ayaf said. 

The events played out hours before Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperSunday shows — Nadler: A jury would convict Trump in 'three minutes flat' Florida Republican says Pensacola shooting 'has to inform on our ongoing relationship with Saudi Arabia' Pentagon chief says he's ordered review of foreign nationals exchange programs after Pensacola shooting MORE confirmed that roughly 1,000 U.S. troops would be removed from northern Syria as part of a "deliberate withdrawal" from the region. 

"It'll be a deliberate withdrawal and we want to conduct it a s safely and quickly as possible," Esper said on CBS's "Face The Nation." He added that the U.S. learned Turkey's military offensive would expand farther south than originally planned and to the west. 

Trump last week abruptly announced last week that the U.S. would withdraw roughly 1,000 troops from northern Syria ahead of a planned Turkish offensive in the area. The forces deployed in northern Syria have been assisting the Kurdish YPG, which leads the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Turkey considers the Kurdish-led forces, which have proved to be the U.S.'s most effective allies in its fight against ISIS, to be a terrorist insurgency. 

Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops has prompted bipartisan backlash, with many voicing concerns that it could lead to a resurgence for ISIS. 

"You can pull your troops out, as President Obama learned the hard way, out of Iraq, but the 'enemy gets the vote,' we say in the military," Former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThreatening foreign states with sanctions can backfire Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Amazon to challenge Pentagon's 'war cloud' decision in federal court MORE said in an interview with NBC. "And in this case, if we don't keep the pressure on, then ISIS will resurge. It's absolutely a given that they will come back."

Ciya Kurd, of the Kurdish-led regional authority, told The New York Times that the group is "facing very fierce attacks" and that they will be forced to "decrease the numbers of guards" overseeing detention camps.

Kurd added that an ISIS flag had been raised in the countryside between the Turkish border and the city where the Kurdish detention camp is based. 

Asked about the potential threat of an ISIS resurgence last Wednesday, Trump said, "well they’re going to be escaping to Europe."

"That’s where they want to go. They want to go back to their homes," Trump said. "But Europe didn't want them from us. We could've given it to them. They could've had trials they could've had whatever they wanted. But as usual, it's not reciprocal."