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3 Sep, 2023 13:15

US issues ISIS warning

A rift between American-backed fighters threatens to spell the return of radical Islamists, a regional military command has said
US issues ISIS warning

The US has urged militants active in the eastern part of Syria to cease hostilities, warning that discord could lead to the resurgence of the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group. The appeal comes after in-fighting between the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its regional affiliate left dozens of dead.

In a statement on Saturday, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, an international military formation established by the US-led coalition against ISIS, insisted on “an immediate end to the continued clashes in the Deir ez-Zor region.”

The force lamented that the “destabilization of the region caused by the recent violence has resulted in tragic and needless loss of life,” adding that all local leaders must resist the influence of unspecified “malign actors” who promise many rewards, but end up bringing only suffering to the local population. It warned that continued clashes could have “dire consequences and only allow for a situation that nobody welcomes – the resurgence of our common enemy.”

Last month, violence erupted in the region between the SDF and the Deir ez-Zor Military Council, its Arab-majority offshoot. The SDF launched a campaign against what it called “criminal elements” within the council allegedly involved in “drug trafficking and mismanaging of the security situation.”

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, since August 27 the ensuing clashes have left at least 45 people, including civilians, dead and multiple others wounded. The fighting also coincided with the SDF campaign against ISIS cells still scattered across the turbulent region.

Syria has been embroiled in conflict since 2011 when the Western-backed local opposition started an uprising against the government of President Bashar Assad, which was supported by Russia and Iran. One of the many factions vying for power was Islamic State, which at its height controlled a sizable chunk of Syria, including part of Deir ez-Zor region. By 2019, however, ISIS had been largely defeated and driven underground thanks to the efforts of the US-led coalition and Russian airstrikes.

With Russian and Iranian support, Assad’s government was able to regain control over much of the country. Since a 2020 ceasefire, the fighting in Syria has mostly subsided, with occasional flare-ups between rival groups.