US-backed Syrian forces stop ‘massive’ ISIS car bomb

The SDF is working with a coalition of militias in eastern Syria

FILE PHOTO: A fighter of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) carries a weapon as he stands near a military vehicle in Raqqa, Syria, October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo
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US-led local fighters in eastern Syria killed two members of an ISIS terrorist cell north of Raqqa during an operation to foil a car bombing, a spokesman for the force said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces is a coalition formed to fight the terrorist group’s short-lived takeover of much of northern Iraq and eastern Syria, between June 2014 and March 2019.

Syrian Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, teamed up with Syrian anti-government rebels and Arab tribes in 2016 to form the SDF, which was then backed by US airpower and Special Forces.

Heavy fighting in Raqqa, the last major city to be held by ISIS, ended in October 2017, after the capture of Mosul in Iraq in July that year by internationally backed Iraqi government forces.

Despite the near-total defeat of ISIS, sporadic attacks still occur and the group has a presence in remote areas.

Biden pledge

The US has about 900 military personnel stationed in outposts with the SDF in eastern Syria.

This is despite President Joe Biden’s remarks at the UN General Assembly that the US was no longer engaged in foreign conflicts.

“I stand here today for the first time in 20 years with the United States not at war. We’ve turned the page,” he said on September 22.

On Monday, SDF spokesman Farhad Shami said the anti-ISIS operation foiled a large car bombing. He did not say when the operation occurred.

“Our special units conducted a qualitative security operation against a dangerous Daesh cell north of Raqqa. Based on the intelligence gathered by our competent agencies, we confirmed that the cell was planning to conduct a massive bombing in Raqqa city using a car bomb.”

Mr Shami said that during the operation the ISIS suspects fired on security forces and were subsequently shot by return fire.

Several ISIS terrorists have been killed or captured since the start of August in joint operations by the SDF and US Special Forces.

Six ISIS fighters were captured and two killed at the end of September, said Col Wayne Marotto, the spokesman for the US-led anti-ISIS mission, Operation Inherent Resolve.

The SDF said that in August, ISIS carried out 20 attacks killing 15 civilians in the Euphrates valley area of operations, which includes Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.

But the terrorist group generally attacks the Syrian regime, according to a US government report released on August 3.

The report, from the Inspector General of Operation Inherent Resolve, said ISIS was struggling to cope with harsh desert conditions, and with having lost control of towns and oilfields, a major revenue source.

“ISIS leaders depend on known routes that traverse ungoverned areas of the Syrian desert to connect from Idlib governorate to Iraq’s Anbar desert. ISIS senior leaders use Idlib as a safe haven,” the report said.

It also said Bashar Al Assad’s government still does not have full control of many areas, a decade into Syria's civil war.

“The desert is sparsely populated, with few potential recruits and few economic resources to exploit. ISIS extracts ‘taxes’ from truckers carrying oil through the region, but the revenue is likely far below the amounts ISIS received when it controlled the oil fields,” the quarterly report said.

Updated: October 04, 2021, 12:48 PM