The Kurdish-led forces controlling north-east Syria on Thursday (October 15th) freed more than 600 Syrian prisoners detained over links to the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).
The 631 detainees had been held on terrorism charges and were the first batch released in an amnesty deal announced recently following calls from Arab tribes in eastern Syria.
The Kurdish administration in north-east Syria holds tens of thousands of people suspected of links to ISIS and their relatives, most of them Syrians and Iraqis.
It also holds hundreds of foreigners, whose fate has been a topic of diplomatic debate and who are not included in the latest amnesty deal.
"All those who were freed are Syrians," Amina Omar, co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, one of the autonomous administration's top bodies, said at a news conference in the town of Qamishli.
Those who were freed on Thursday have served at least half of their sentence and were found to have no blood on their hands, she said.
Boosting ties with Arab tribes
The releases came after repeated calls from the Arab tribes that dominate much of the region administered by the Kurds, including the areas near the Iraqi border where ISIS made its bloody last stand in 2019.
AFP correspondents outside the Alaya detention facility in the outskirts of Qamishli saw dozens of detainees leave the premises and reunite with relatives who had come to meet them.
"My brother has been in jail for eight months for women trafficking in al-Hol camp," Ahmad al-Hussein said, in reference to the largest detention facility in the region.
Al-Hol alone shelters more than 60,000 people, including 24,300 Syrians either captured or displaced by fighting, according to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The cost of maintaining such detention facilities is a burden the cash-strapped Kurdish administration is seeking to alleviate with mass releases.
The deal could also boost laborious co-operation between the Kurdish forces and the Arab tribes that purvey a significant proportion in the military alliance controlling the area.