Syrian Democratic Forces have captured 2,323 members of the Islamic State (ISIS) in operations throughout northern Syria, SDF General Command member Newroz Ehmed told Fırat News in an interview on Tuesday.
Ehmed spoke on the fourth anniversary of the liberation of Baghouz (Baxoz), the last town to be taken back from ISIS in the country in 2019.
While the so-called caliphate of ISIS ended with the recapture of Baghouz, sleeper cells still remain, Ehmed said. SDF has also captured many leaders of smaller ISIS groups, however, the danger still persists and SDF continues its operations.
The top official said ISIS cells carried out a total of 352 attacks in the region, focusing on Ras al-Ayn (Serêkaniyê) and Tel Abyad (Girê Spî) and prisons therein. SDF’s operations were in response to these attacks, where 397 out of 2,323 captured ISIS militants were killed.
SDF and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) bear the biggest burden of the arrested ISIS members, Ehmed said. Prisons in the region were not strong enough in the past, and currently ISIS prisoners are scattered throughout the AANES-controlled area. The autonomous administration bears the cost of keeping tens of thousands of prisoners fed, housed, healthy and safe, she added.
International support to the AANES has increased following last year’s prison riots in al-Sina, but it is still not enough, Ehmed said. Syrian Kurds demand the establishment of an international court to put ISIS members on trial, and that Western countries repatriate their citizens who remain in Syria as ISIS prisoners.
The majority of the arrested ISIS members and their families are Iraqi nationals, and there have been joint negotiations with the Iraqi government for their return. However, this process is slow due to the constant bombardment of the areas by aeroplanes and artillery shelling.