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12 militant prisons left unguarded due to Turkish offensive in Syria: Russia

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People look on as smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn, in a photo taken from the Turkish side of the border on October 11, 2019. (By AFP)

Russia says Turkey’s offensive in northeastern Syria has left 12 Syrian prisons for foreign militants as well as eight refugee camps unguarded, warning about the return of hundreds of terrorists to their home countries.

Russia’s Interfax news agency cited the country’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as making the remark on Monday.

"As a result of the actions of the Turkish army in Syria, eight refugee camps and 12 prisons for foreign militants remained unprotected. This could lead to a surge in the so-called reverse migration of terrorists to their historical homeland," Shoigu told participants at a security forum in China.

The Russian defense minister said the question of protecting Daesh prison facilities after the Turkish aggression needed to be urgently resolved.

Several reports have so far emerged that Kurdish militants from the so-called People’s Protection Units (YPG) have been releasing Daesh prisoners they held in northeastern Syria after Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring less than two weeks ago.

Turkish military forces and militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), who enjoy Ankara’s patronage, on October 9 launched a cross-border invasion of northeast Syria in a declared attempt to clear YPG militants from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

The Syrian government has condemned the offensive as an act of aggression.

Daesh posing threat to Asia-Pacific region

Speaking at the security forum in Beijing, Shoigu also said that the Daesh terrorist group has “greatly expanded its presence” in the Asia-Pacific region, including in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and partly Thailand, after its defeat in Syria.

"There is a need to consolidate the efforts of the entire world community to counter terrorists' challenges, their ideology and propaganda. The Russian Defense Ministry has gained vast experience in this area, which we are ready to share with our partners in the Asia-Pacific region," he added.

After talks with US Vice President Mike Pence in Ankara, Turkey agreed on Thursday to halt its Syria offensive for five days to allow the YPG militants to pull out of the border area. The Turkish government says it will end the operation altogether provided that the militants are completely cleared from the zone.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also threatened to resume the offensive if the militants fail to pull out.

Washington has long been providing the YPG militants with arms, calling them a key partner in the purported fight against the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in Syria. Many observers, however, see the support as part of plans by the United States to carve out a foothold in the Arab country.

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