HASAKAH, Syria (North Press) – Dozens of Arab tribes in Syria's eastern Deir ez-Zor called on the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for more military support to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) sleeper cells in the region, tribal leaders said in a meeting with SDF Commander Mazloum Abdi on Wednesday.
The SDF commander held an urgent meeting with the tribal leaders, who asked for the tightening of security procedures in the country's east, near the border with Iraq, where ISIS sleeper cells have been very active the past few months, military sources told North Press.
The tribal leaders stressed intensifying the military support in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, especially Al-Shuhayl town near the border with Iraq.
Abdi has been holding meetings with Arab tribal leaders in several areas in northern and eastern Syria, including a meeting with Raqqa tribes and another with Tabqa tribes during the last month.
In all meetings between the SDF commanders and Arab tribes in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, the latter expressed their concern over the growing attacks of ISIS against civilians and a potential resurgence of the radical groups in the region.
The SDF, spearheaded by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and backed by the US-led Global Coalition, was the leading force responsible for ISIS’ fall in Syria, sacrificing over 13,000 fighters in the battles to regain territory from the terror group until the latter’s final loss in al-Baghouz on March 23, 2019.
ISIS sleeper cells have been active in the region since their defeat, but recent events, mainly the US troop withdrawal in January 2019 and subsequent Turkish invasion of the Sere Kaniye and Tel Abyad regions in October of the same year, led to a security vacuum which emboldened the group.
Last year, former Special Envoy to the Global Coalition Against ISIS Brett McGurk stated that “the Islamic State and other extremist groups will fill the void opened by [the US] departure.”
Northeastern Syria has witnessed ISIS activity tied to sleeper cells in the region, including a series of attacks which resulted in the death of an SDF fighter on May 17 in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor.
In addition, a major ISIS prison in Hasakah has witnessed repeated unrest as ISIS detainees attempted to take control of the prison, though anti-terror security forces associated with the SDF quickly controlled these uprisings.
On May 16, ISIS media accounts shared a nearly fifty-minute video which declared their loyalty to new leader Abu Ibraim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, showed ISIS militants executing civilians, and threatened to attack security forces in Iraq.
(Reporting by Zana Ali and Hisham Arafat; editing by Lucas Chapman)