Weapons cache recovered from an ISIS cell planning to attack al-Sina’a prison

Key Points

– 22 attacks documented, 14 claimed by ISIS

– The attacks resulted in 23 deaths (14 civilians, at least 9 SDF/Asayish)

– 5 murders in al-Hol, and subsequently 14 arrests of ISIS affiliates

– Across NES, SDF/Asayish (Internal Security Forces) conducted 10 raids resulting in 42 arrests

In-depth

Attacks were on the rise again this month, especially in the Deir ez-Zor region. At the beginning of the month, a seemingly emboldened group of ISIS affiliates launched a series of attacks on SDF bases and headquarters in the region. This included a coordinated series of four attacks on November 8th. Gunman attacks on SDF and Asayish members continued throughout the month, resulting in the death of several individuals. These included Ibrahim al-Shehab, who was a regiment commander in the villages adjacent to Thiban in Deir ez-Zor, and Ayman al-Ma’eidi, a 24-year-old SDF soldier who was manning a military checkpoint in Sweidan. Another SDF member was killed by a landmine placed in Raqqa.

Gunman attacks also heavily targeted civilians, including members of the Autonomous Administration. Notably, a car bomb from an unknown source was detonated in Manbij on November 27th. The explosion killed a family, including two children aged 1 and 5 years old. The Asayish called this, “a terrorist bombing,” though the exact source remains unclear. 

November in al-Hol saw the murder of the head of the Iraqi Council in al-Hol and other Iraqi refugees, continuing a pattern of targeting this population. However, an ISIS-affiliated Iraqi national was also murdered in the camp, likely in retaliation for ISIS’ attacks. Following these murders, the SDF and Asayish launched a comprehensive raid in the camp, resulting in the arrest of 14 ISIS affiliates.

Even though Al-Hol is often cast as a camp for ISIS affiliates, it is important to note that at least 10,000 Iraqis still living in the camp arrived there fleeing ISIS’ advance between 2016 and 2018. This means that many camp residents are now living side-by-side with those they were trying to escape. In 2018, the Iraqi government agreed to take back 5,000 of their non-ISIS affiliated nationals from al-Hol. To date, only 868 of these 5,000 have been returned. 300 families that have already passed security clearance are still waiting in the camp. And as these most recent murders make plain, the longer they wait, the longer they are exposed to danger.  

Asayish conducting a raid of ISIS affiliates in al-Hol camp

This month, Asayish and SDF/Coalition forces also thwarted a planned attack by an ISIS cell on al-Sina’a prison in the city of Heseke. The Asayish believes the planned attack may have freed 5,000 detainees. Prior to the attack, the security forces raided the ISIS cell headquarters, resulting in the confiscation of a large cache of weapons, including Kalashnikov rifles, PK machine guns, and RPGs, as well as substantial ammunition and explosives. 

Other incidents of note in November include a fire set to an Autonomous Administration building in Abu al-Naytel of al-Suwar district, north of Deir ez-Zor and the arrest of an ISIS financier in Deir ez-Zor. Additionally, in the beginning of the month two Turkish intelligence agents in Raqqa were arrested and found to be selling photographs and intelligence about SDF military sites to Turkey.