Syria's Kurds launch offensive against IS militants

AFP , Thursday 29 Dec 2022

Syrian Kurdish-led forces said Thursday they had launched an offensive against Islamic State group fighters, days after jihadist gunmen launched a deadly prison attack.

File Photo: Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) pictured in northeastern Hasakah province on September 7, 2022. AFP


Six Kurdish fighters were killed Monday when IS militants attacked a complex in Raqa, the jihadist group's former de facto capital in Syria, in a bid to free fellow militants imprisoned there.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the offensive, dubbed "Operation al-Jazeera Thunderbolt", aimed to "eliminate" IS gunmen from areas that had been "the source of the recent terrorist attacks".

The SDF said the operation was being carried out alongside the US-backed coalition, although there was no immediate confirmation from the international force that they were taking part.

The SDF statement said that in addition to the thwarted Raqa attack, IS fighters had recently carried out eight assaults in the northern Syrian areas of Deir Ezzor, Hasakeh and the Al-Hol camp for displaced people, which houses family members of IS militants.

Referencing recent Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, the SDF said IS was trying to "take advantage" of the situation by "carrying out more terrorist attacks".

After a meteoric rise in Iraq and Syria in 2014, IS saw its so-called caliphate collapse, but fighters remain.

Supported by an international anti-jihadist coalition led by the United States, the SDF spearheaded the fight against IS in Syria and drove the group from its last stronghold in the country in 2019.

IS continues to claim attacks in Iraq and Syria, and the SDF regularly launches operations against the jihadists in Syria.

The group said Monday's attack on Raqa aimed to avenge "Muslim prisoners" and female relatives of jihadists living in the Al-Hol camp.

In September, Kurdish authorities arrested more than 200 people in Al-Hol following the discovery of tunnels and an arsenal of weapons used by jihadists.

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