ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Manbij Military Council’s (MMC) counter-terrorism forces on Saturday arrested one suspect in Manbij with alleged links to the so-called Islamic State.
“A combing operation inside Manbij resulted in the arrest of a person closely associated with terrorist activities,” the MMC’s media office said in a statement, adding they also seized a cache of weapons.
Our forces “are committed to cooperating with the community and tribal leaders to provide the highest levels of safety for their citizens,” it stated.
The MMC also warned that sleeper cells are trying to sow “fear and create mistrust of the people in the civil administration” of Manbij.
Despite the SDF and the US-led coalition announcing the defeat of the extremist group’s so-called caliphate on March 23, Islamic State sleeper cell attacks continue in Arab-majority areas that were liberated from the militants.
The SDF and internal security forces have detained several sleeper cell members in territories liberated from the Islamic State in recent years.
On March 25, seven fighters were killed in the city of Manbij—an attack the Islamic State claimed.
Senior SDF officials have called for continued support from the US-led coalition to fight sleeper cells and prevent the extremist group’s resurgence.
Shervan Derwish, a spokesperson for the MMC, warned in a previous interview that the Islamic State would remain a threat even after the Baghouz operation, notably in territories it controlled for several years, such as Manbij and Raqqa.
“A lot of work needs to be done to remove this threat. [ISIS] is very organized in terms of its covert operations, and it has the capability to carry out its attacks, and it knows how to work,” he warned.
According to Derwish, fighting Islamic State sleeper cells might be even more difficult than defeating the group militarily.
“Our plan is to target sleeper cells, and we will work more to target ISIS members who hide among civilians.”
The MMC has arrested several suspects linked to sleeper cells attacks, including Abdul Aziz Mohammed Al-Shaji, an Islamic State member involved in the Jan. 16 bombing at a popular Manbij restaurant that killed 19 people, including four Americans.
Counter-terrorism forces also arrested three other suspects on March 3 linked to separate sleeper cell attacks.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany