DEIR AL-ZOUR / WASHINGTON - U.S. military officials said more than 60 Islamic State (IS) terrorists were captured by U.S.-backed forces in Syria as part of a major campaign to hunt down remnants of the terror group.
Col. Myles Caggins, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against IS, said in a tweet Monday that U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continue their operation against IS sleeper cells in parts of Deir al-Zour and Hasaka provinces in eastern Syria.
Since its territorial defeat in March 2019, IS has carried out terror attacks against civilians and SDF fighters, especially in areas along the border with Iraq.
With nearly 6,000 U.S.-backed fighters involved, SDF officials say they also coordinate with Iraqi security forces for their campaign, which was launched Friday.
“We have received a lot of intelligence about [IS] being very active in this area,” said Resho Kobani, an SDF field commander in northern Deir al-Zour.
“They have dug tunnels here to store their weapons. But civilians have provided us a lot of information about their locations,” he told VOA Monday, noting that SDF forces “are in control. … We started this campaign three days ago, but it could continue for up to 10 days.”
Local military officials believe the recent surge in IS attacks is largely because of a security vacuum created because of the coronavirus pandemic. Local authorities in eastern Syria have imposed a lockdown on the region to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
In a recent interview with VOA, Caggins, said the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition continues to provide critical support to the SDF for its ongoing campaign against IS militants.
“The coalition troops share intelligence, provide air support and at times accompany the SDF commandos on raids,” he said.
Experts believe the militant group now presents a major insurgent threat throughout the Syrian Desert. They say the region, known as al-Badiya, is a scarcely populated area, which allows IS to hide its fighters and military hardware.