ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – At least 10 people were killed on Saturday when separate explosions rocked the Syrian city of Raqqa, an incident which underlines the continued threat of Islamic State sleeper cells in northeastern Syria.
A suicide bomber targeted the city's Paradise Square at 10 p.m. local time, close to a checkpoint of the local internal security forces.
The Paradise Square, known as Dawar al-Naim in Arabic, was renovated a few months ago by a local civil society organization with support from the Raqqa Civil Council.
A Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) source in Raqqa confirmed to Kurdistan 24 that there were casualties.
According to the Sound and Picture group, which documents Islamic State crimes, 10 people were killed and many others injured.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a war monitoring group, also confirmed that 10 were killed, including five civilians and five members of the local security forces.
Despite the SDF and US-led coalition announcing the defeat of the terror group’s so-called caliphate on March 23, Islamic State sleeper cell attacks are ongoing as security forces continue to detain militants in previously liberated territories.
Some analysts believe Iran, the Islamic State, Turkey, and Damascus have an interest in undermining the stability in Syria’s northeast by targeting the SDF, and Arabic and Turkmen officials that joined the SDF-backed local civil councils.
“The SDF is in a difficult phase of stabilization because it has multiple enemies—be they ISIS, the Assad regime and its allies, especially Iran, and Turkey,” Nicholas A. Heras, a Middle East security analyst at the Washington-based Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24.
“Raqqa is a vulnerable location because it is a large area where there is a lot of people moving into, and out of, the city.”
According to Heras, this means the SDF’s enemies have more opportunities to place their operatives in Raqqa and carry out attacks.
Moreover, he said Raqqa is a high-value target because the US-led coalition has made it a model of how to rebuild in the aftermath of the Islamic State.
“The enemies of the SDF and the US-led coalition have every incentive to target Raqqa and show that both the coalition and the SDF are nowhere as near as powerful, or able to protect the people of Raqqa, as they claim to be,” Heras stated.
“Raqqa is a flashpoint city in the treacherous post-ISIS Syria.”
Amaq, the semi-official news agency of the Islamic State, later claimed responsibility for the attacks in Raqqa, adding that it had targeted local security forces.
Moreover, it also claimed an additional IED attack on an SDF vehicle in Karama, located in the countryside of Raqqa. The group said the actions were part of its attrition campaign to weaken its enemies.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany and John J. Catherine