Islamic State (ISIS) members killed 11 individuals, including a woman and a soldier from the Syrian army, Syrian Observatory for Human rights (SOHR) reported on Monday.
The killings raised concerns over a possible resurgence of ISIS after the jihadist group kidnapped 75 truffle-pickers in Palmyra to the east of Homs in western Syria on 12 February. The fate of the other 64 abductees is still unknown, the human rights watchdog said.
ISIS appears to be taking the opportunity to increase attacks in Syria, as locals and members of the international community in northern parts of the country try to cope with the massive destruction caused by two major earthquakes that hit the region on 6 February.
The earthquake crisis also enabled some ISIS members to escape from prison. According to reports, 20 ISIS fighters escaped from a prison in Rajo immediately after the earthquake.
The infamous “Black Prison” near the Turkish border holds approximately 2,000 inmates, with about 1,300 suspected to be ISIS fighters, according to Agence France.
Analyst Güney Yildiz told the Sun that the volatile situation in the Kurdistan region leaves the door open for an ISIS comeback.
“Any event, including natural disasters, that can divert the attention of a nation to a topic other than securing its borders is very much welcomed by extremist organisations such as ISIS,” political scientist Hamoon Khelghat-Doost told Media Line last week.
“It has been a common practice by the members of different terrorist organisations to use humanitarian tragedies to cross the border to Turkey. There is a fear that history will repeat itself in the coming days,” Khelghat-Doost said, referring to the fact that the ISIS used the coronavirus pandemic also as an opportunity to reorganise and amass power.
Turkey’s ongoing attacks against Kurdish forces in northern Syria has also benefited jihadist groups. The Kurdish groups played a leading role in defeating ISIS, according to experts. If a power vacuum develops as a result of the current crisis, this could enable a resurgence of ISIS.