ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Manbij Military Council (MMC) in cooperation with internal security forces of Manbij carried out a search mission on Friday that targeted Islamic State sleeper cells inside the Syrian city.
“As a result of the operation and follow-up by our units, an operation was carried out against a cell who left Baghouz to cause incidents in Manbij and five ISIS members were captured,” the MMC said.
They took the action while Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued to purge the remnants of the jihadist group in Baghouz, its final ever-dwindling territory. The MMC also has personnel assisting in the last territorial attack on the extremist group, in which clashes still continue.
“The forces of the Manbij Military Council have promised citizens that they will keep a watchful eye to maintain their security and safety,” the MMC continued.
“Many other clients of groups or their sleeper cells are working in our area,” MMC spokesperson Sharvan Darwish told Kurdistan 24. “We have captured some of them, and we plan to show them in the media to confess.”
The sleeper cells are thought to have targeted military and administration officials to create a large public reaction in the city.
“Manbij is the link with Euphrates Shield areas and ISIS members want to go to there from here,” Darwish said.
“That’s why there are still sleeper cells. Al-Nusra and others in Idlib are very close to ISIS and they are not much different from each other.”
Islamic State members and their families fleeing Baghouz have also attempted to travel to Syrian land now under Turkish control with the help of smugglers. As a result, the MMC has intensified patrols and search campaigns and says it plans to focus even more on sleeper cells after Baghouz has been liberated.
“We will work more to plan to target ISIS members who are sleeper cells among the civilians.”
There have been several security incidents of late in Manbij, most recently on Wednesday when an explosive device was detonated on the side of al-Saan Road, south of Manbij city, without causing any casualties.
On March 9, an IED blast in Manbij claimed by ISIS killed one civilian and wounded six others. Earlier, on Jan. 16, a suicide bombing in the city left 19 people dead including four Americans, two of them US soldiers. Two SDF fighters perished in the explosion as well.
Editing by John J. Catherine