Four years after the Islamic States’ (ISIS) territorial and military defeat in Syria and Iraq on 23 March 2019, the fundamentalist group continues to pose a threat to the world, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) warned on Thursday.
ISIS aims to rebuild its crumbling organisation, regain control over certain territories and threaten the local population, said the SDF Press Centre in a statement released on the anniversary of ISIS’s expulsion from the region and called for greater cooperation from global forces against ISIS.
The SDF also urged the international community to play an active role in pressuring countries that enable ISIS to reorganise and spread, pointing to Turkey.
The Kurdish-led SDF stressed that the regions in Syria which are under the control of Turkish forces and their allied Syrian rebel groups became safe havens for ISIS cells and recalled that they have been publishing confessions of senior members and leaders of ISIS who confirmed they are receiving instructions, directives and support from the areas in question.
“The killing of all its leaders in the occupied areas confirms Turkey’s involvement in restoring the organization’s spirit,” said the SDF. “And this would hinder our efforts to eliminate its sleeper cells and negate the influence of its extremist ideology.”
As the Kurdish-led militia stated that they would continue their efforts to combat the ISIS cells and uproot its ideology for the enduring defeat of ISIS, the US State Department also said on Thursday that they would continue to take the necessary steps to remove the key ISIS leaders from the battlefield and stabilize liberated areas to ensure it cannot reappear, adding that these steps include conducting joint operations with their local partner, the SDF.
Since the SDF, with the assistance of international partners, liberated the Baghuz region in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor in 2019, in a territorial last stand for ISIS, after a tough six-week battle, the US-led Global Coalition and SDF fighters regularly conduct joint operations against ISIS cells in north and east Syria.
However, ISIS sleeper cells have recently been carrying out attacks targeting civilians as well as the security forces in central, northeastern and eastern areas of the country.
The largest-scale ISIS attack was the Sina’a Prison riot following a car bomb that targeted the prison in Haseke in January 2021, aiming to free ISIS fighters who have been jailed there since 2019.
After heavy fighting that lasted over a week, 154 SDF fighters lost their lives while trying to regain control. Some 346 ISIS members were killed and 1,100 were re-arrested. A total of 400 prisoners managed to escape.