Islamic State: Kills civilians, officers in deadly attack

Beirut –

IS groups carry out the deadliest attack in more than a year, killing dozens of civilians in the central Syrian desert, even as people in northern Syria are digging up from the wreckage from the region’s devastating earthquake. and killed security forces.

The bloodshed was a reminder of IS’s persistent threat even nearly four years after its defeat in Syria.

The attacks also highlighted the limits of militants. IS militants have found refuge in the interior of Syria and in the remote deserts along the Iraqi-Syrian border. From there, they attack civilians and security forces on both sides. But they are also surrounded by enemies on all sides, including Syrian government forces and Kurdish-led fighters that control eastern Syria and are backed by US forces. U.S. raids by Kurdish-led allies have repeatedly killed or arrested IS leaders, killing two senior IS leaders earlier this month.

IS’s attacks this month have mostly been against highly vulnerable targets. It’s the Syrians who hunt truffles in the desert.

Truffles are a seasonal delicacy with high prices. As truffle hunters work in large groups in remote areas, over the past few years IS militants have repeatedly preyed on them, emerging from the desert and kidnapping them, killing some and holding others for ransom. I requested.

On February 11, IS fighters kidnapped about 75 truffle hunters outside the town of Palmyra. At least 16 people were killed, including a woman and a security guard, 25 were released, and the rest remain missing.

Six days later, on Friday, they attacked a group of truffle hunters outside the desert town of Sukhna, up the highway from Palmyra, and fought off troops at a nearby security checkpoint. Seven soldiers died. Many of the group’s truffle hunters work for three local businessmen close to the Syrian army and pro-government militias, who may have led IS to target them, Britain said. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Syria, the opposition War Monitor, and the Palmyra News Network, an activist group covering the development of desert areas.

Minor attacks around the area have killed 12 people, including soldiers, pro-government fighters and civilians.

The region is far from the northern regions devastated by the February 6 earthquake that killed more than 46,000 people in Turkey and Syria. Still, IS fighters “used the earthquake to send a message that the organization still exists,” said Rami Abdulrahman, who heads the observatory.

Friday’s attack in Sukhna was the deadliest of IS militants since January 2022 when they stormed a prison in the northeastern city of Hasakeh housing about 3,000 militants and boys. It was His 10-day battle between militants and US-backed fighters left nearly 500 dead.

Attacks on prisons have raised concerns that IS is planning a comeback. But then a series of attacks against the group followed, returning to a drumbeat of small-scale shooting and bombing.

Aaron Y. Sellin, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said it’s too early to tell whether it marks a fresh resurgence of new attacks.

“This is the biggest attack in a while. So the question is, is it a one-off attack or are they reactivating their capabilities?” said Zelin, who followed up with and founded

He said IS fighters’ activity has slowed year after year since 2019, pointing out that recent attacks have hit civilians and not stronger security targets.

In 2014, IS overran large parts of Syria and Iraq, declaring the entire territory a “caliphate” and imposing radical brutal rule. The United States and its Syrian and Iraqi allies, as well as Russia-backed Syrian government forces, fought it for years and eventually drove it back, leaving tens of thousands dead and the city in ruins. The group was declared defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later.

In 2019, when IS lost the last piece of land it controlled and its founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a US raid, international outcry against extremist-linked social media pages. The crackdown limited IS propaganda and recruitment, leading many to believe IS was over. campaign.

About a year ago, another US raid killed al-Baghdadi’s successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi. His replacement died fighting rebels in southern Syria in October.

Newest IS leader, Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Quraishi, may be trying to show his strength in recent attacks, Syrian study focuses on jihadist groups said Abdullah Suleiman Ali. Leader names are pseudonyms and do not refer to family ties.

“The new leader needs to take steps to prove (to show) within the organization that the group under the new leader is competent and strong,” Ali said.

The US military and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have removed a series of IS leaders this month, according to the US military. On February 10, they killed Ibrahim Al Qahtani, suspected of plotting last year’s prison attack, and eight days later arrested IS officials implicated in planning the attack and building the bomb. Last week, a senior IS commander, Hamza al-Homsi, was killed in a raid and four US soldiers were also wounded.

But IS remains a threat, according to UN, US and Kurdish officials.

A United Nations report this month estimated there are between 5,000 and 7,000 members and supporters in Iraq and Syria, about half of whom are combatants. IS uses desert hideouts “for remobilization and training purposes”, each of which he distributes between 15 and 30 cells to other parts of the country, especially the southern he Daraa state.

SDF spokesman Siamand Ali said IS is relentlessly planning attacks in Kurdish-held eastern Syria. He pointed to an attempted attack by his IS fighters on his SDF security headquarters in Raqqa city in December. Since then, SDF clearing forces have secured a cache of his IS operatives and weapons, he said. This is a sign the group is about to carry out a large-scale operation, he said.

IS aims specifically to raid prisons run by the Self-Defense Forces to free militants, he said. About 10,000 of his IS fighters, including about 2,000 foreigners, are being held in more than 20 Kurdish-run camps.

In a statement earlier this month, US Central Command Commander Gen.

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