SDF arrests ISIS suspect in eastern Syria with Coalition support

Kurdish Anti-Terror Forces (HAT) in northeast Syria (Photo: SDF Coordination and Military Operations Center)
Kurdish Anti-Terror Forces (HAT) in northeast Syria (Photo: SDF Coordination and Military Operations Center)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northeast Syria arrested a suspected member of the Islamic State group in Deir al-Zor province this week. The SDF’s anti-terror unit in Al-Shahail detained a man suspected of carrying out assassinations, the force’s command said. 

The SDF has recently stepped up operations against ISIS in response to a wave of assassinations carried out in Deir al-Zor in northeast Syria.

Anti-terror (HAT) forces seized weapons and ammunition during the operation on Tuesday, the SDF command center said.

Although the SDF and US-led Coalition announced the “territorial defeat” of ISIS in March 2019, the group continues to carry out sleeper cell attacks, especially in areas where it formerly had control, in an apparent campaign to destabilize the area.

On February 4, the SDF announced a large-scale operation in Deir al-Zor province to avenge the deaths of two women from the civil administration in northeast Syria.

At least 87 suspected members of ISIS were arrested during the 10-day campaign, including suspects in the deaths of Hind Latif al-Khadir, co-head of the Tal al-Chayir council, and Economy Committee Co-head Sa’da Faysal al-Hermas. The two were kidnapped from their homes in neighboring Hasakah province and killed on January 23.

Read More: Two local female politicians abducted and killed in northeast Syria

Deir al-Zor has consistently been one of the most unstable regions in those areas in northern Syria now under SDF control.

The east bank of the Euphrates river in the province is controlled by the SDF forces while the west bank is controlled by the Syrian government and its allies.

Among the main targets of Islamic State remnants have been ethnic Arab civilians from Deir al-Zor it accuses of working with SDF-affiliated civilian and military institutions in the province.

Major General Kevin Copsey, Deputy Commander of the US-led anti-ISIS Coalition in Iraq and Syria, told Kurdistan 24 that the SDF continues to work unilaterally and carries out operations against ISIS operatives based on their own intelligence.

“They [the SDF] do a really good job in being able to manage the security for the region they are responsible for and doing it increasingly on their own,” he said during a recent interview.

ISIS has been more active in parts of Deir al-Zor where it can exploit “the seams between the regime and local Arab tribes,” he said. 

The insurgents have killed dozens of Syrian military forces in ambushes around the province, including on December 30 when they attacked a regime convoy and killed at least 25 soldiers.

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly