As many as 20 Islamic State militants escaped from a prison in northwestern Syria that was damaged in the massive earthquake that hit the region on Monday. The prison where the mutiny and the breach happened was being controlled by pro-Turkish factions.
The prison in Rajo near Syria's border with Turkey, which mainly holds Islamic State members, had nearly 2,000 inmates when the jailbreak happened. According to AFP, some 1,300 of the prisoners are IS militants, while a significant number of prisoners are from Kurdish militias.
"After the earthquake struck, Rajo was affected and inmates started to mutiny and took control of parts of the prison ... About 20 prisoners fled... who are believed to be IS [group] militants," the officials at Rajo jail told the agency.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that a mutiny took place in the prison following the natural calamity.
Even as rescue operations are slowed down by inclement weather there are fears that Monday's earthquake would go down as the most destructive in Turkey's modern history. Current estimates are that at least 5,000 people have died and tens of thousands have been injured.
Attempts to free Islamic State prisoners in the region had happened earlier as well. In December, the IS had attacked a security complex in Raqa, which the militants had claimed was the capital of the Caliphate. The foiled bid resulted in the deaths of six members of the Kurdish-led security forces that controlled the facility.
Two strong quakes hit Turkey and Syria, with the first one having magnitude 7.8 intensity, while the latter was magnitude 7.5 tremor. The World Health Organisation authorities fear that the actual death toll could rise at least eight times this number. If it does happen, the death toll from the latest earthquake would be higher than the 33,000 people killed when a massive quake hit Turkey's eastern Erzincan province in 1939.