ISIS sleeper cell attack kills one SDF fighter in Syria’s Deir al-Zor

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A car bomb in the Syrian province of Deir al-Zor on Friday killed a fighter from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an SDF spokesperson confirmed.

According to Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF press office, a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) belonging to the Islamic State “martyred” an SDF fighter.

“ISIS still has a strong presence among [the] society in the area, and this can only be countered by an effective military cooperation between the SDF and the global coalition,” Bali wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), meanwhile, reported on Friday that a car bomb in Theban town in the eastern region of Deir al-Zor’s countryside killed two members of the SDF.

Elsewhere, another SDF fighter died from his injuries on Saturday after unknown gunmen believed to be members of the Islamic State shot him in al-Busayrah, a town in eastern Deir al-Zor province.

Despite the SDF and the US-led coalition announcing the defeat of the extremist group’s so-called caliphate on March 23, Islamic State sleeper cell attacks continue in Arab majority areas that were liberated from the militants.

On March 25, seven fighters were killed in the city of Manbij—an attack the Islamic State claimed.

Senior SDF officials have called for continued support from the US-led coalition to fight sleeper cells and prevent the extremist group’s resurgence.

Redur Xelil, the SDF’s head of foreign relations, told Kurdistan 24 earlier in the week that the Islamic State’s military defeat is a significant victory for Kurds around the world.

Xelil noted, however, that there is still a threat from Islamic State sleeper cells as the terror group was able to organize in areas formerly under its control.

“It’s a big challenge,” he said. “It’s necessary to conduct military and security operations in the regions of Raqqa, Deir al-Zor, the border of Iraq and Syria, where ISIS organized itself, this is a big threat for Rojava and northeastern Syria.”

Therefore, there is a need to work together with the US-led coalition to defeat these Islamic State remnants, Xelil added.

According to Nicholas A. Heras, a Middle East security analyst at the Center for a New American Security, the Islamic State’s defeat in Baghouz “represents the beginning of the more treacherous campaign to prevent the reemergence of ISIS.”

SOHR estimates suggest there are still 4,000 to 5,000 Islamic State members in Syria’s northeast who continue to carry out attacks and target SDF forces in liberated areas.

The SDF says it will comb the Deir al-Zor area and eliminate possible sleeper cells now that the Baghouz offensive is over.

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