Islamic State sleeper cells in Syria pose threat to regional stability

Islamic State sleeper cells in Syria pose threat to regional stability

Though the United States and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) in March, the jihadi group’s sleeper cells continue to threaten regional security, as highlighted by two bombings this week, Kurdistan 24 news site reported on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, four civilians and a military officer were wounded as a result of a booby-trapped motorcycle bomb in al-Shaddadi in northeast Syria. This followed a car bomb attack in Tabqa’s city center on Monday, which left 10 civilians wounded and one child dead, Kurdistan24 said.

Raqqa’s internal security forces announced last week that they had dismantled a large ISIS sleeper cell ring in the city, the report added.

The SDF forms the backbone of U.S.-led coalition forces fighting ISIS in Syria, though Ankara sees the group as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

While Turkey and the United States have been working to establish a safe zone in northeast Syria, which Turkey sees essential for eliminating the threat from SDF-held enclaves, ISIS sleeper cells regularly attack Arab-majority areas the SDF liberated from ISIS, the news site said.

Although ISIS is often blamed for attacks on territories held by the SDF, Kurdish forces on Aug. 24 published confessions of seven sleeper cell members reportedly backed by either the Syrian regime or Turkey, Kurdistan24 said.

Nicholas A. Heras, Middle East security analyst at the Washington-based Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan24 that Syria and its allies Russia and Iran aimed to force the U.S. troops to withdraw from Syria, and they believed the best way to do that was to destroy the SDF.

“Turkey is jealous of the close partnership between the U.S. military and the SDF, and will stop at nothing to wreck this relationship,” Heras added.

Source: Ahval News