ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Manbij Internal Security Forces on Monday released a statement announcing the arrest of a group of six people, including two women, accused of being responsible for at least ten sleeper cell attacks in the city.
“Recently, terrorist attacks and bombings targeted a number of civilians and security locations in the city of Manbij, the latest of which was a security check-point that was hit by a car bomb by the terrorist factions led by Turkey,” the local police force said.
In a recent operation, however, security forces uncovered an Islamic State sleeper cell “consisting of 6 terrorists, including two women, who carried out several bombings and assassinations dating back to last year.”
The security forces affirmed that, according to investigations conducted by the Manbij security department’s Bureau of Investigation, this group carried out ten bombings using explosive devices (IEDs) as well as bicycles and car bombs in the past two months.
They were reportedly preparing for other attack targeting key sites in Manbij.
The Manbij security forces during the raid found a high number of weapons, bombs, machine guns, and night vision devices.
Despite the Islamic State’s military defeat in the country, announced by the SDF on March 23 with the fall of the group’s last sliver of territory in the town of Baghouz, Manbij has seen a spike in insurgency-style attacks.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that on May 19 two IED explosions in Manbij, with no casualties.
On May 16, a car bomb killed at least one person and injured seven more in Manbij.
Recently, the US-led coalition reiterated its support for operations of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against Islamic State sleeper cells.
“These operations aim to deny Daesh [ISIS] a physical space and influence in the area and to deny them the resources they need to return,” US Army Lt. Col. Donald Ryan public affairs officer for the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), told Kurdistan 24 this weekend.
“The back-clearance operations will be slow and thorough, and will help ensure the long-term security of the area.”
It is not the first time security forces in Manbij arrest Islamic State suspects.
On January 23, they arrested Abdul Aziz Mohammed Al-Shaji, an Islamic Staye member involved in the bombing of a popular Manbij restaurant a week earlier that killed 19 people, including four Americans.
On April 6, security forces arrested one suspect in Manbij with alleged links to the jihadist group.
Manbij was liberated by the US-backed SDF in 2016 in one of the bloodiest campaigns Syria has witnessed against the Islamic State. It is also at the center of tensions related to Turkey’s repeated threats to invade the area.
The embattled city is located near territory controlled by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and anti-Syrian militias supported by the Turkish government.
Editing by Nadia Riva