A member of the Raqqa security forces inspects people at a checkpoint. File photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) picked up 63 alleged ISIS members in operations in Raqqa, ending a one-day curfew imposed on the city.
The Kurdish-led forces captured 63 “terrorists complicit in different terrorist activities,” the SDF’s media centre announced on Thursday.
The individuals were members of sleeper cells spreading “fear, chaos, causing sedition, and anxiety” among the local population, the force added.
The night before, a curfew had been imposed on the city. It was lifted on Thursday.
Raqqa served as the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS. It was liberated by the SDF and their allied global coalition on October 17, 2017.
Much of the city, however, was destroyed in the campaign to liberate it. There are also thousands of mines that have to be cleared. And ISIS sleeper cells are known to wreak havoc – planting roadside bombs and carrying out assassinations to stir up tribal tensions.
Some 99.5 percent of territory once controlled by ISIS has now been liberated, according to the coalition. The group has been corralled into a small pocket of territory on the banks of the Euphrates River, where tens of thousands have fled the fighting in the past weeks.
“As we continue squeezing the remaining ISIS fighter in the MERV [middle Euphrates River valley] into a smaller box, now less than one percent of the original caliphate, they are attempting to escape through intermixing with the innocent women and children attempting to flee the fighting," said British Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, a deputy commander within the coalition, on Thursday.
"These tactics won't succeed, our Syrian partners are focused on finding ISIS wherever they hide, and our Iraqi partner have secured their borders ensuring ISIS cannot enter Iraq."