Islamic State comeback brings fear to Syria’s Kurdish areas
The Islamist group is exploiting lax security measures and the hostility of some conservative tribes towards Kurdish hegemony. Attacks by lone wolves and targeted operations are increasing, not direct offensives. Religious levies are IS’s main source of funding.
Aleppo (AsiaNews) – Taking advantage of lax security measures and reduced military operations, the Islamic State (IS) group recently launched a series of attacks against Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria, regaining some of the ground lost in the past.
This is still far a cry from the time, between 2014 and 2017, when the so-called Islamic caliphate held huge swathes of Syrian and Iraqi territory, ruling through violence and terror. Still, despite its military defeat, IS still represents a threat and risks sowing again confusion and fueling the violence in the Arab country.
Local sources report “renewed IS activity” in areas under Kurdish control and patrolled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF); for example, on 14 October, IS claimed responsibility for an operation in Tal Alo, a village in Hassakeh province.
The target was Hamidi Bandar Hamidi al-Hadi, the son of the leader of al-Sanadid Forces (Forces of the Brave) formed by the Arab Shammar tribe and operating under the umbrella of the SDF and the US-led coalition.
Hadi’s car was blown up on the road between Tal Alo and Sheikh Hamidi’s farm in the Qamishli countryside. Hadi survived the assassination attempt.
Similarly, on Wednesday last week, an IS operative shot dead Amer Awad al-Shawi, a former SDF member, and a companion, Ayman al-Shawi, in an ambush in al-Busayrah, an eastern suburb of Deir ez-Zor.
A local source told al-Monitor that the jihadi group has stopped operations “only to make a more ferocious comeback.” In addition, “some tribes are creating a suitable environment for IS,” said Zain al-Abidin al-Akeidi, a journalist.
“The large numbers of displaced people in the eastern and northeastern countryside of Deir ez-zor enables IS to hide its cells and fighters,” he added.
For al-Abidin, IS has been able to regain momentum amid the fragile security provided by the SDF, exploiting widespread corruption to weaken the security forces, freeing prisoners, and fuelling discontent among more conservative tribes who dislike Kurdish control.
Through attacks by lone wolves, IS exercises great influence in the countryside around Deir ez-Zor. Sometimes, it imposes Zakat[*], “charitable contributions, on staff employed at SDF-controlled oil fields.
To ensure its survival, IS’s strategy is centred on three main factors, this according to Raed al-Hamid, an Erbil-based expert on armed groups.
The first one is protecting its men. This is done by having small, mobile groups of less than 15 fighters who avoid battle in offensive battles. The second is its ideology, but this is waning. The third and most crucial one is financial, obtaining money to fund its jihad, holy war.
[*] A mandatory charitable contribution based on a person’s wealth, designed to “purify” the latter.