Sleeper cell attack kills seven in Manbij city
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Manbij Military Council (MMC) on Tuesday confirmed seven of its fighters manning a checkpoint at the entry of the city were killed last night in an apparent terrorist attack.
“The martyrs were on duty to guard the city,” the MMC’s press office said in a statement.
Sleeper cell attacks continue to pose a threat to the security of Manbij despite the territorial defeat of the Islamic State at the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), March 23, 2019.
Senior officials have called for continued support by the US-led coalition to fight sleeper cells and to prevent the resurgence of the jihadist group.
Before the liberation of Baghouz, the city of Manbij, which was liberated in August 2016, witnessed multiple security incidents.
Most recently, on March 9, a suicide attack in Manbij caused at least eight casualties as it targeted the convoy of the MMC spokesperson. Another IED exploded on a road in Manbij four days later.
As a response to the threats, the MMC launched a campaign to sweep the city for sleeper cells linked to the regime, the Islamic State, or Turkey.
In January, another suicide bombing in Manbij left 19 people dead, including four Americans, among them two US soldiers.
Suspects that were involved in the attack were arrested on March 19 following an investigation.
Shervan Derwish, the spokesperson for the MMC, in an interview on Feb. 26 had already suggested that the Islamic State would remain a threat even after Baghouz, notably in territories it controlled for several years, such as Manbij and Raqqa.
“A lot of work needs to be done to remove this threat. Daesh [ISIS] is very organized in terms of its covert operations, and it has the capability to carry out its attacks, and it knows how to work,” he warned.
According to Derwish, fighting Islamic State sleeper cells might be even more difficult than defeating the group militarily.
“Our plan is to target sleeper cells, and we will work more to target ISIS members who hide among civilians,” he explained.
Amb. James Jeffrey, US Special Representative for Syria Engagement and Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS told reporters on Monday that they are essentially working on a “counterinsurgency against ISIS in the northeast of Syria as well as in neighboring Iraq.”
Acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick M. Shanahan, also noted on March 23 in a public statement following the defeat of the jihadist group’s so-called caliphate that the US understands its work is “far from complete.”
“As the D-ISIS campaign in northeast Syria transitions from liberating territory to enabling local security and preventing resurgent ISIS networks, we will continue to work by, with, and through our partners and allies to enable stabilization efforts.”
Editing by Nadia Riva