QAMISHLI, Syria (AP) — A fire broke out Wednesday in a sprawling camp in northeast Syria housing tens of thousands of mostly women and children linked to the Islamic State group causing material damage but no casualties, the camp’s director said.
The Al-Hol Camp holds about 51,000 people, the vast majority of them women and children, including the wives, widows and other family members of IS militants. Most are Syrians and Iraqis. But there are also around 8,000 women and children from 60 other nationalities who live in a part of the camp known as the Annex. They are generally considered the most die-hard IS supporters among the camp residents.
The camp’s director, Jihan Hanan, told The Associated Press that the fire broke out in the annex torching 10 tents and reaching a center for an organization that takes care of children. She added that a container used by the center was burnt as well.
Hanan said the cause of the fire that broke out in the early afternoon Wednesday was still unknown. She added that the local Kurdish police force known as Asayesh brought tanker trucks from outside the camp to extinguish the fire.
The camp population is down from its height of 73,000 people, mostly because Syrians and Iraqis who were allowed to go home. But other countries have largely balked at taking back their nationals, who traveled to join IS after the radical group seized large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Despite the extremist group’s defeat in Iraq in 2017 and Syria in 2019, IS sleeper cells still carry out deadly attacks in both countries. Over the past years, grisly crimes were committed inside al-Hol.
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