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SDF, international coalition take out ISIS cell in eastern Syria raid

By Diyaruna and AFP

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A US soldier walks near a Syrian Democratic Forces military vehicle during a joint exercise between the SDF and the international coalition against ISIS in rural Deir Ezzor on December 7. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

In a joint operation in eastern Syria, the international coalition and anti-terror units of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed five members of an "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) cell, the SDF said Monday (December 13).

The "dangerous" ISIS cell had been hiding out near the village of al-Busayra in the eastern part of Deir Ezzor province, the SDF said.

The joint raid on the cell, by SDF special units with international coalition air support, was conducted "after investigations, information gathering and careful follow-up of wanted persons", it added.

During the raid, security forces responded to the sources of fire, it said, and five ISIS elements were killed in the ensuing gun battle.

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This picture taken December 7 shows an aerial view of US Bradley Fighting Vehicles during a joint military exercise between the Syrian Democratic Forces and the international coalition against ISIS in rural Deir Ezzor. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

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US forces from the international coalition pose with children during a patrol led by the Syrian Democratic Forces. [Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve]

Most of the ISIS elements were wearing explosive belts, it said.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman said the cell members killed in the raid were members of the same family, including two who were shot by helicopter fire as they tried to flee on a motorbike.

Military forces affiliated with the SDF imposed a curfew in al-Busayra Monday evening, informing local residents not to leave their houses using loudspeakers, the Observatory said.

According to Observatory sources, the SDF is still searching for wanted persons, one of whom escaped earlier from a prison in al-Suwar in rural Deir Ezzor.

The joint raid follows an escalation of ISIS attacks on SDF forces and civil and service institutions in al-Busayra, the Observatory said.

There have been several ISIS attacks on al-Busayra over the past week, according to the Rojava Information Centre.

On Sunday, the centre said, the SDF was involved in a firefight with ISIS cells that lasted more than five hours, and the headquarters of the Deir Ezzor Military Council's 1st Regiment was attacked.

Also on Sunday, ISIS cells in al-Busayra attacked other SDF bases, claiming to have wounded several SDF fighters, it said.

SDF anti-terror units carried out a raid the same day, arresting three cell members, the Rojava Information Centre said.

It noted that al-Busayra was the setting of several acts of violence more than a month ago, when a foiled prison escape attempt prompted ISIS cells in the city to mount several attacks.

Stronger Together

In a post on Twitter, the international coalition said its SDF partners "continue to keep the pressure on ISIS so they can never again regenerate and threaten the region".

"Together, we remain committed to our objective to deal ISIS a lasting defeat," it added, using the hashtag #StrongerTogether.

The removal of ISIS fighters from the battlefield, followed by a controlled destruction of explosives, "furthers the continued efforts to provide safety and security to the region", it said.

Al-Busayra lies on the banks of the Euphrates, between the two main cities of Deir Ezzor and al-Mayadeen, in the middle of ISIS's original heartland.

The SDF flushed out the last holdouts from what was once ISIS's sprawling self-proclaimed "caliphate" in 2019, with international coalition air support, officially ending the group's existence as a territorial entity.

ISIS returned to guerrilla warfare, launching frequent hit-and-run attacks from desert hideouts on either side of the border with Iraq.

In 2020, the SDF conducted an extensive campaign, Operation Terrorism Deterrence, to root out ISIS remnants in parts of eastern Syria under Kurdish control.

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