ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A car bomb explosion on Thursday killed 14 oil workers and six conscripts in a village near a base the US-backed, Kurdish-led forces fighting the Islamic State use in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province.
The car bomb targeted an oil field in the village of Shaheel, near another oil field that hosts the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Footage the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) published showed the location of the bombing with burned bodies scattered everywhere.
The SOHR blamed the attack on Islamic State sleeper cells that remain active in rural areas in eastern Deir al-Zor.
Meanwhile, the Kurdish Hawar News Agency (ANHA) said 15 workers were killed near the Shaheel hospital after they left the field.
An SDF spokesperson told AFP the attack mostly killed oil workers, as well as fighters in the village of Shaheel. They also blamed it on Islamic State sleeper cells.
The SDF’s fight against the Islamic State in the last village of Baghuz is ongoing. The extremist group still controls less than one square kilometer. However, the presence of civilians has delayed the fight.
Last week, the SDF leadership underlined in a statement that after the militant group is defeated, the Kurdish-led forces would focus on the elimination of sleeper cells through precise “military and security campaigns” with support from the US-led coalition.
But even now during the ongoing military campaign, sleeper cells continue to target the US-backed forces.
Liwla Abdullah, an SDF spokesperson for the offensive in the Deir al-Zor province, notably escaped an assassination attempt on Feb. 14, the Associated Press reported.
Gunmen opened fire at her car as she drove between Deir al-Zor and the northeastern province of Hassaka.
Elsewhere, the DeirezZor24 news network reported on Thursday that the US-led coalition in Shaheel arrested Haytham, alias Al-Qeece, a member of the Islamic State, and three other men.
The network added that the SDF carried out raids on the Abu Naytal village in search for Islamic State sleeper cells.
According to the SDF, many extremist fighters are trapped in a small area in the Baghuz village.
They say the battle will likely end after they evacuate civilians from the area, liberate prisoners, and defeat the remaining hardline Islamic State fighters.
So far, the last remaining Islamic State fighters have refused to surrender.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany