British Isil 'matchmaker' feared to have escaped after mass prisoner breakout

British Isil 'matchmaker' feared to have escaped after mass prisoner breakoutThe United States confirmed it would go ahead with a "deliberate withdrawal" of troops from northeastern Syria, just hours after hundreds of Islamic State prisoners took advantage of the chaos created by the subsequent Turkish offensive to break out of prison. Mark Esper, the US defence secretary, said the decision to pull out most of the 1000 US troops still in Syria came after Turkey said it intended to push its invasion further than it previously announced and that the previously US-allied Kurdish-led Syrian democratic forces were seeking a deal with Russia and the Syrian government to stop the attack.  "I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," he said.  "In the last 24 hours, we learned that [the Turks] likely intend to extend their attack further south than originally planned, and to the west," Mr Esper said in the pre-taped interview. Turkey – Syria map The United Nations said on Sunday that more than 130,000 people have fled their homes since Turkey launched its offensive into Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria on Wednesday, prompting fears of a humanitarian disaster and a revival of the Islamic State terrorist group. British female Isil members, including a notorious recruiter, were on Sunday feared to be among the hundreds who escaped a detention camp amid chaos caused by a Turkish offensive in northern Syria. Tooba Gondal, 25, from London, and her two children, could be one of those who managed to flee after Turkish warplanes reportedly dropped a bomb near Ain Issa camp south of the Turkish-Syria border. Smoke rises from a Turkish bombardment in northeast Syria on Sunday, seen from the Turkish side of the border Credit: ERDEM SAHIN/EPA-EFE/REX The former Goldsmith's University student from Walthamstow traveled to Syria to join Isil in 2015 and has been accused of encouraging other young British women, including Shamima Begum, to follow her. Ms Gondal, who gained notoriety after grooming young women with violent propaganda, last month released an open letter to the British public, asking to be allowed home for trial: “It is not just for my government to keep us here for nearly a year now. ‘I want to face justice in a British court. I wish to redeem myself,” she wrote. “I would like Britain to accept my apology and give me another chance.” The Telegraph understands at least three other British women, and reportedly three British orphans, had been held in Ain Issa camp before the break-out. The escape was one of the feared scenarios after Turkish forces entered northern Syria, prompting Kurdish forces to abandon their fight against Isil to defend the border.  Tooba Gondal is pictured before leaving for Syria Asked about the possibility that Ms Gondal was among those that fled, the Rojava Information Centre, which is staffed by international volunteers in Kurdish-held areas of Syria working to help journalists, said: “I don't think anyone can say for sure right now but it's highly likely.” The Kurdish administration in the town of Ain Issa, which runs the camp, said in a statement that “at least 785 foreign ISIS members escaped from Ain Issa camp with the help of mercenaries (referring to Syrian rebel fighters allied with Turkey) and air cover from Turkish warplanes.” “ISIS members attacked the camp guard and opened the doors to flee,” the statement said. Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), tweeted: “Almost all suspected ISIS militants fled the camp.” Read more | Syria crisis The Telegraph was not able to immediately verify the numbers. Some of the information published on the situation in north-east Syria since the Turkish offensive began on Wednesday has been exaggerated. It was also reported this week that British orphans may be among the residents of Ain Issa camp. BBC journalists discovered three children they believed to be British. Amira, 10, her sister, Hiba, eight, and their brother Hamza said they had traveled to Syria with their parents from London five years ago. Their mother and father, an older brother and two other sisters were killed in an air assault on Isil-controlled Baghuz which finally fell to Kurdish led-forces in March. She said she and her surviving siblings have a grandmother, but she did not know her name. The children speak Arabic, but speak English when they are together and Amira has traces of a London accent. Very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, for a change. Those that mistakenly got us into the Middle East Wars are still pushing to fight. They have no idea what a bad decision they have made. Why are they not asking for a Declaration of War?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2019 Save the Children, which runs relief programs in northern Syria, said it was "deeply concerned" at news of the escape and that it had heard reports that the annex was now "completely empty" of foreign women and that masked foreign men had been seen circling it on motorcycles.   “Once again, we urgently call on foreign governments to repatriate their nationals while they can. The opportunity is quickly slipping away,” Save the Children Syria Response Director Sonia Khush said. “We heard reports that the authorities on the ground took some of the foreign women to another location, but many have fled and some are unaccounted for,” Ms Khush added. The SDF was left to police thousands of fighters and families taken prisoner during the war against Isil, and warned there would be a risk of escape if it was forced to pull troops from guarding the prisoners in order to respond to a Turkish attack. The camp at Ain Issa is just 20 miles south of the Turkish border and, until this morning, was home to some 12,000 people including 1,000 wives and widows of Isil fighters, and their children.   The town of Ain Issa, once home to 25,000 people, was nearly empty Monday afternoon. Its residents are among the 130,000 Syrians who have fled the area since the fighting began.   Pro-Isil groups were celebrating the “bushra”, or good news, on encrypted Telegram on Sunday. “The sisters are sitting outside with their phones, many sisters ran away and made it out,” a supporter messaged in one of the groups. Turkey had said it would take responsibility for the fighters in prisons they seized from. They said they would put the women and children into deradicalisation programmes. But there have been warnings that there would not be a smooth transition of control of the prisons and camps, which Isil would likely take advantage of.  Mr Trump wrote on Twitter: "Very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, for a change. Those that mistakenly got us into the Middle East Wars are still pushing to fight. They have no idea what a bad decision they have made. Why are they not asking for a Declaration of War?"

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