Two ISIS smuggling operatives captured in Syria

US forces 'advised, assisted and enabled' operation that comes amid rise in anti-ISIS activities

This aerial view shows troops from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Special Operations and the US-led anti-jihadist coalition, take part in heavy-weaponry military exercises in the countryside of Deir Ezzor in northeastern Syria, on March 25, 2022.  (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN  /  AFP)
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The Syrian Democratic Forces have captured two ISIS smuggling operatives in the country's north-eastern Hasakah province, US partner forces announced on Tuesday.

The US Combined Special Operations Joint Task Force said the SDF led an April 30 operation that successfully captured Said Husayn Al Hamawai and Ali Muhamed Gahanam, “ISIS operatives known for leading smuggling co-ordination efforts” within Al Hol displacement camp.

“SDF co-ordinated the deliberate targeting of these ISIS members to further disrupt ISIS capabilities, degrade their support networks, and improve security and stability within Al Hol,” the task force said.

Al Hol houses thousands of mostly Arab refugees who arrived there after the territorial defeat of ISIS in 2019. Most of the camp's 56,000 residents are women and children from Syria and Iraq.

They are either banned from leaving the camp, where they live in squalid conditions, or have nowhere else to go.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged all countries with citizens being held in Al Hol to repatriate them.

Those calls echo demands from Iraq, which has called on foreign governments to repatriate their citizens from Al Hol so that it can be dismantled, as security concerns have risen that the camp acts as a radicalisation site.

The SDF operation comes amid an sharp rise in anti-ISIS activity.

American troops have been in Syria since 2015 in a mission focused on countering Iran-backed militias and preventing the resurgence of ISIS, in partnership with the Kurdish-led SDF.

Despite its defeat four years ago, the terrorist group continues to wage a low-level insurgency across northern Iraq and Syria, and often attacks members of the SDF.

Last month, US Central Command announced that it had killed a senior ISIS Syria leader after a targeted raid in the north of the country.

Separately, the US announced sanctions on two groups accused of being financial facilitators for designated terrorist groups, Hayat Tahrir Al Sham and Katibat Al Tawhid Wal-Jihad, both of which operate in Syria.

“The United States will continue to take actions to disrupt the flow of funds to terrorist groups worldwide,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Updated: May 02, 2023, 6:00 PM