The Islamic State (ISIS) has found a suitable environment to re-emerge in northern Syria due to Turkey’s ongoing strikes targeting Kurdish groups. The jihadist fighters have organised eight different attacks in the last three weeks, according to a spokesperson for the mainly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“There is pressure on the people in North and East Syria, particularly in Der Zor, Raqqa and Haseke,” said the spokesman Ferhad Şami in an exclusive interview with Fırat News Agency.
Claiming that Kurdish groups in Syria were linked to a deadly bomb attack in İstanbul in early November, the Turkish government launched airstrikes against the military wing of the SDF on 20 November. The SDF have repeatedly denied any involvement in the İstanbul blast.
Turkey’s attacks also hit SDF-controlled al-Hol refugee camp, which is home to 55,000 people, mostly ISIS-affiliated women and children of various nationalities. The airstrikes provided a number of ISIS members with an opportunity to escape from the camp but the Kurdish security forces recaptured them immediately afterwards, ANF said.
The jihadist group has been collecting money from its supporters in Iraq for facilitating a resurgence in Syria, while many ISIS members have found a safe haven in Turkish-controlled territories in northern Syria, Şami said.
Some 65,000 ISIS members are held in camps and prisons in North and East Syria, while only 12,000 of them have been jailed, the spokesperson said, adding that other members of the jihadist organisation are on the one hand trying to prevent ISIS commanders from being held, while also upping efforts to expand their organisation.
“They have made many attempts to save them [commanders]. But now they are trying to take the opportunity created by the Turkish state’s invasive attacks. The gangs have attempted to organise eight attacks in the last 20 days,” Şami said.
“So far, Turkey does not see ISIS as a terrorist organisation. It calls ISIS an armed organisation, instead of a terrorist organisation. The future of the prisons and the al-Hol camp is uncertain, posing a threat,” he added.
Turkey’s plans to launch a ground operation against the Kurdish groups in northern Syria have caused discontinuities in the anti-ISIS operations of the US-led coalition fighting against the jihadist organisation.
The SDF forms the backbone of the coalition’s military power in northern Syria, while Ankara sees the Kurdish armed group as a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and claims they pose a threat to Turkey’s national security.
Meanwhile, ISIS is also continuing its attacks in Iraq. At least nine members of the Iraqi federal police were killed as a result of an ISIS ambush in the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq early on Sunday, Kurdistan24 reported.