The Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor. Photo: Ahmad Aboud | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Facing continued airstrikes in eastern Syria’s Deir ez-Zor and with of its several leaders who directed external attacks being announced killed, the ISIS group has turned to forced conscription of locals.
In a statement distributed in Deir ez-Zor province that borders Iraq, ISIS called on all men between 20 and 30 who are able to fight to head to mobilization offices within a week.
The statement, obtained by The Associated Press from activists in eastern Syria, warns that those who do not join will be undergo questioning and possibly be punished.
The global coalition reported numerous ISIS leaders being killed near the Deir ez-Zor province, where the middle Euphrates River Valley stretches from the Albu Kamal-Al Qaim border crossing with Iraq northwest to Mayadin and then to Deir ez-Zor city.
"We have heard from open-ended reporting that ISIS has said 'Oh, Raqqa is no longer our capital, we are going to move it to Mayadin,' the spokesperson for the coalition told reporters during a teleconference on Thursday.
US Army Col. Ryan Dillon cited 54 strikes this week in Deir ez-Zor and 15 in Albu Kamal saying that the coalition would continue to "give no sanctuary" to ISIS headquarters, logistics, and setting up and building IEDs.
The US-led global coalition announced on Thursday that two ISIS leaders involved in directing external operations as well as bomb making directed at regional and Western targets were killed.
Abd al-Ghafur, a Syria-based ISIS external operations official, and one associatewere killed in an airstrike on July 24 near Albu Kamal in Deir ez-Zor. His assistant and three other ISIS members had been killed on July 16 near Deir ez-Zor.
“Abd Al-Ghafur and Abu Hammam were responsible for managing and directing external operations attacks and participated in attack plotting against the Middle East and Western targets,” the coalition wrote.
Additionally in the province, Abu Futtum, an ISIS explosives specialist, and one associate were killed in an airstrike July 13 near Mayadin.
The coalition stated Futtum instructed and incited others, “encouraging lone wolf attacks across the globe.”
Near the same city, Lavdrim Muhaxheri was killed by a Coalition airstrike June 7. Muhaxheri was an ethnic Albanian from Kacanc, Kosovo, and self-proclaimed leader of ISIS foreign fighters from Kosovo.
“He was known as the most prominent and radical ethnic Albanian fighter in Syria and was directly responsible for inciting jihadist ideology within European communities and encouraging foreign fighters to travel to ISIS-controlled territory,” wrote the coalition “He was also responsible for planning numerous terrorist attacks, including the failed plot to bomb the 2016 Israel-Albania soccer match in Albania.”
In addition to killing ISIS leaders in the govenorate, there was a report on Tuesday of the coalition striking a chemical weapons factory.
"Near Dayr Az Zawr, three strikes destroyed 13 ISIS [Daesh] oil stills, an oil storage barrel and an ISIS chemical weapons factory,” read the daily strike report.
Dillon said in Iraq, ISIS produced “rudimentary” chemical weapons using “largely industrial type ingredients. Nothing that causes so much concern for us.”
However, Dillon added: "We do not want them to get good at this. So anytime we find or know that ISIS has stockpiles or anything that can be used to make these weapons, we will strike them.”
In addition to its geographic significance, Deir ez-Zor has many oil wells and the city has an air field that Syrian government forces supported by Russia have defended against ISIS attacks.