ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Tuesday that their counter-terrorism units prevented an attack in northeastern Syria by a sleeper cell of the Islamic State.
“The cell was in preparations for carrying out suicide attacks against the civilian population with car-bombs in Qamishli, Hassakeh and Derik,” the SDF Press Office said in a statement.
According to the SDF, as part of the operation, its units made several arrests, including an Iraqi suspect named Fourat Sultan Hussein, known as “Abu Monzer,” in the town of Shaddadi in Hasakah province.
Another suspect of unspecified nationality named Ahmed Muhammed al-Abid who had hidden a booby-trapped vehicle in Qamishli was also arrested. Afterward, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team of the Internal Security Forces destroyed the vehicle in a safe location.
Despite the SDF and the US-led coalition announcing the defeat of the extremist group’s so-called caliphate in March 2019, Islamic State sleeper cell attacks persist in areas now liberated from its brutal rule.
As a result, the SDF, internal security forces, and the coalition continue military efforts to rout out those who remain dedicated to the extremist group in Syria.
However, after a Turkish military incursion in early October into areas in northern Syria under the control of the SDF, the SDF “temporarily paused” operations against the Islamic State to enable its fighters to confront Ankara’s cross-border invasion.
In a Pentagon Inspector General report from November, the US Defense Intelligence Agency expressed worries that the reduction in counterterrorism pressure “will provide the group with time and space to expand its ability to conduct transnational attacks targeting the West.”
After US President Donald Trump’s decision in late October to leave between 500 to 600 American troops in Syria to protect oilfields, the SDF continued counter-Islamic State operations, including those targeting the extremist group’s smuggling networks.
Despite this, Islamic State sleeper cell attacks have continued, including recent incidents where militants employed the use of hand grenades at SDF bases in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, the SDF announced on Monday.
“On December 28th, an ISIS sleeper-cell carried out an attack against SDF-fighters,” the SDF press office announced.
“Clashes broke out resulting in 2 ISIS terrorists being killed, and 3 of them ran away.”