SDF anti-terrorism units thwart planned ISIS attack in former Syrian stronghold

The SDF said its forces also uncovered a large underground ISIS weapons and ammunition depot in Raqqa city.
SDF forces said they uncovered an underground ISIS weapons depot in Raqqa, Syria on April 15, 2021. (Photo: Hawar News Agency)
SDF forces said they uncovered an underground ISIS weapons depot in Raqqa, Syria on April 15, 2021. (Photo: Hawar News Agency)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrian Democratic Forces said its anti-terrorism units have prevented a planned Islamic State attack in the terrorist group’s former Syrian capital of Raqqa during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Farhad Shami, the new head of the SDF’s Office of Media and Information, said Thursday that the anti-terrorism units uncovered an active Islamic State cell of 10 members that was planning attacks.

Shami alleged the group was “planning to target gatherings of citizens and civil institutions of the self-administration in the cities of Al-Raqqa and Al-Tabqa and a number of other areas during the month of Ramadan.”

“After intelligence monitoring of the movements of the cell members, the anti-terrorism units raided a number of lairs in which the terrorist elements were hiding,” he added.

The cell was headed by an “ISIS commander” and also included an explosives expert, he said. The anti-terror unit, also known by the acronym YAT, “confiscated weapons and documents in addition to the communication devices that were in the cell's possession.”

The SDF media office said earlier on Thursday that its forces uncovered a large underground weapons and ammunition depot in Raqqa city that was used by Islamic State militants.

Despite declarations of the Islamic State group’s defeat in Syria in March 2019, militant sleeper cells continue to carry out attacks in their former territory, including around Raqqa, once the group’s de facto capital in Syria. The SDF recaptured the city from Islamic State in October 2017 with support from the US-led coalition.

Although local security forces in Raqqa now lack support from the US-led coalition, which pulled its troops from the area after the 2019 Turkish incursion, the number of Islamic State attacks appears limited.

According to a new report by the Syria-based Rojava Information Center, the group carried out 40 attacks in northeast Syria last month. Nevertheless, the number of attacks in Raqqa is limited compared to other regions under SDF control.

The RIC report said the majority of those attacks (25 attacks) took place in the countryside of Deir al-Zour, while only two were carried out in Raqqa, and only one – a house raid – was claimed by the group.

Coalition troops remain in the provinces of Deir al-Zor and Hasakah and support SDF operations against Islamic State sleeper cells.

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly