ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The media office of the Manbij Internal Security Forces on Tuesday said armed ‘gangs,’ at just past midnight on Tuesday, attacked the al-Shuweiha checkpoint on the outskirts of the city.
The media office in its statement said that members of the Internal Security Forces were ambushed while “doing their duty” at the checkpoint.
According to preliminary investigations by the authorities, the attack was carried out with a silenced pistol (9/14 mm), which resulted “in the martyrdom of elements of the Internal Security Forces.”
The attack was claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS) through their official media channels.
IS alleged they had killed four security members at a checkpoint using machine guns and silencers in the village of al-Shuweiha. After the attack, the fighters safely returned from their operation, the jihadist group continued.
The attack comes weeks after the start of joint Turkish-US patrols, and Turkish-backed armed groups have also targeted positions of the Manbij Military Council (MMC) with heavy weaponry. Turkish cross-border shelling near Tal Abyad, Kobani, and Manbij have occurred despite Turkish and US troops carried out another joint patrol on Nov. 8.
In June, Turkey and the US agreed on a Manbij roadmap, which includes US-Turkish forces patrolling the demarcation line between SDF forces and the Turkish-backed forces, and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) withdrawing from Manbij, which they did in June.
However, tensions continued between the US and Turkey over Washington’s support for Syrian Kurdish groups. So far, Turkey has expressed it is not satisfied with the roadmap, claiming the YGP has not yet left Manbij.
Now, IS may be taking advantage of the situation to spark more tensions.
“Manbij is an easy target for [IS] because the area is unstable and there are networks of former rebel fighters for [IS] to hire to attack SDF positions,” Nicholas A. Heras, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24.
“Manbij is one huge target for [IS] because there is a significant Coalition military presence there, and there is every reason to believe [IS] will try to attack them. Manbij could very well be at the center of an [IS] insurgency,” he added.
On Nov. 2, IS also claimed responsibility for the killing of a prominent tribal leader in Raqqa.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in a statement on Nov. 11 admitted there were still IS sleeper cells in liberated areas, such as in Raqqa.
On Thursday, SDF special units conducted an operation with the support of Coalition helicopters, resulting in the arrest of a high-ranking IS commander in Raqqa.
“This demonstrates that [IS] still has roots and dormant cells in the liberated areas, and the need to continue this alliance and cooperation on the long term, to secure the environment of stabilization and prevent the re-emergence of terrorist organizations,” the SDF concluded.
Editing by Nadia Riva