Trump makes 'insane' suggestion Kurds are deliberately freeing Isis prisoners, after hundreds escape during Turkey bombing

US president suggests former allies he abandoned are trying to ‘get us involved’

Monday 14 October 2019 13:37 BST
Syrian rebel fighters backed by Turkey attack Kurdish-led militia

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Donald Trump has made the apparently baseless suggestion that Kurdish forces have deliberately been releasing Isis prisoners who are reported to have escaped during Turkey’s offensive in Syria.

As part of his latest in a string of attacks on Fox News – a network that has consistently been supportive of the president – the former reality show presenter attempted to defend himself over widespread criticism of his decision to withdraw US troops, clearing the way for the Turkish attacks.

Hundreds of Isis militants and affiliates reportedly escaped from facilities during shelling over the weekend, and Mr Trump said ”Europe had a chance to get their ISIS prisoners, but didn’t want the cost”.

And the president used a 7.14am tweet to say, without providing evidence: “Kurds may be releasing some to get us involved. Easily recaptured by Turkey or European Nations from where many came, but they should move quickly.

“Big sanctions on Turkey coming! Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey?”

The post prompted instant condemnation, with Vivian Bercovici, Canada’s former ambassador to Israel, labelling it “sheer insanity”.

Turkey’s defence minister Hulusi Akar has also accused Syrian Kurdish fighters of freeing Isis fighters from a prison in northeast Syria before Turkish troops arrived in the area.

A video of the empty Tel Abyad jail was released by the military in support of its claims.

Both the US and Turkey have faced international criticism over the deteriorating situation in Syria, amid concerns that Isis fighters could take advantage of the conflict to re-establish the terror group.

However Mr Trump has sought to shift the blame on to the Kurdish forces, as well as European countries who refused to take responsibility for their fighters being held in the camps.

On Sunday he tweeted that “Turkey and the Kurds must not let them escape”, before adding: “Europe should have taken them back after numerous requests. They should do it now.”

The Turkish offensive forced Kurdish forces previously allied with the US to reach a deal with President Bashar Assad’s government, allowing Syrian troops to retake towns and villages near the northern border.

“After the Americans abandoned the region and gave the green light for the Turkish attack, we were forced to explore another option, which is talks with Damascus and Moscow to find a way out and thwart these Turkish attacks,” said senior Kurdish official Badran Jia Kurd.

Turkey has played down the prospect of a wider conflict with the Russian-backed Syrian army following the US withdrawal. ”There are many rumours at the moment,” said Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “However, especially through the embassy and with the positive approach of Russia, it appears there won’t be any issues.”

The European Union has unanimously condemned the Turkish offensive and asked all member states to stop selling arms to the country. Turkey has dismissed the threat of sanctions from the EU and the US as “quips” and “a joke”. It claims its forces are clearing the border area of the Kurdish YPG group, which it views as a terrorist organisation, to form a “safe zone” for refugees.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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