Russia Says 500 Terrorists Have Escaped N.Syria; US Envoy Downplays It At "Very Few"

According to Russian official statements which followed marathon talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday, some 500 ISIS terrorists and dangerous jihadists have escaped prisons in northern Syria since Turkey commenced its military incursion on Oct. 9.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that "Moscow estimated that up to 500 people, including Islamist fighters, had escaped from captivity in northern Syria after their guards left their posts." Shoigu added that measures were being taken for Russian and Syrian forces to capture them. 

Washington also confirmed Tuesday that ISIS terrorists have escaped; however, a top State Department official cited only "dozens" freed

Perhaps shielding the White House from further criticism over the matter, special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, testified before the Senate when asked how many "hardened" Islamic State fighters had gone free: "We don't have high numbers but it was very few so far... for the moment very few."

"I would say dozens at this point," Jeffrey told the hearing. The top White House appointed envoy added that there's no plan to recapture them, and additionally that 10,000 still remain under Kurdish supervision.

Within days of the start of Turkey's operation against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF leaders announced they couldn't possibly provide adequate security to guard ISIS prisoners while simultaneously fighting off the Turks and their invading proxies. 

Multiple reports have since detailed large-scale prison breaks, which suggests the Russian figure of 500 escaped is more accurate over and against the US designating "dozens". 

Meanwhile, just after agreeing to a deal with Russia on Tuesday, Erdogan claimed the US "has not completely fulfilled its promises in Syria," which will require Turkey to "take the necessary steps". He added: "If we make compromises we would open the way for the terrorist organisation," according to NTV. 

Turkish media is hailing the Turkey-Russia deal as "a better-than-expected outcome" for Erdogan

According to the agreement, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia will withdraw to beyond 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the Turkish border, and leave the towns of Tel Rifaat and Manbij.

Russia and Turkey will hold joint patrols in a 10-kilometre-deep area to the east and west of the ground covered by Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring.

Russia is expected to send additional troop reinforcements to the region as a result of the deal. 

Defense Minister Shoigu said, "As for additional troops, we naturally believe... that additional equipment will be needed for patrolling since the border is rather extensive and the patrolling should be serious and substantial so that we could avert any serious incidents." 

US media pundits as well as hawkish Congressional leaders who oppose the US draw down in Syria have pushed the dubious claim that Assad and Russia coming back into eventual control of of northeast Syria will only result in a resurgent Islamic State. 

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