Increase in Turkish-linked jihadist cells in Syria, study finds – Morning Star, UK

Original article by Steve Sweeney

ATTACKS by Turkish-backed jihadist sleeper cells in Syria increased last month, with intensified activity seen in cities in border areas and inside the so-called buffer zone, according to a new report.

The Rojava Information Centre (RIC) recorded 95 sleeper cell attacks in August and said they were intended to “destabilise infrastructure and shatter the fragile peace in the region, paving the way for Turkey’s expected invasion.”

Isis cells were behind most of the attacks, but there has also been increased activity by the Turkish-linked Ahrar al-Shaab group, focusing on border cities such as Sere Kaniye, Dirbesiye and Qamishlo.

The group claimed responsibility for 14 acts of violence, including assassinations, beheadings, stabbings and the planting of explosive devices targeting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia alliance.

Ahrar al-Shaab claimed to be carrying out “revenge” attacks on behalf of the Turkish military, which has been occupying the largely Kurdish Afrin region since Ankara launched Operation Olive Branch in January last year.

The group said it was responding to “attacks on our people in the areas of Olive Branch and the Euphrates Shield,” the latter being the codename for the initial Turkish ground invasion of Syria.

RIC researcher Robin Fleming said: “Through its use of assassinations and IEDs [improvised explosive devices] to target SDF and Asayish [internal security], Turkish-linked group Ahrar al-Shaab seeks to destabilise society and security in north-east Syria, in tandem with Turkey’s continued threats and troop movements along the border.

“Turkey is by no means solely responsible for the sleeper-cell attacks being carried out daily in north-east Syria, but it has long demonstrated its desire to attack and destabilise the democratic project here by any means possible, including open support for jihadist groups.”

Last month, the Star reported on the extensive links between Turkish intelligence services and senior Isis figures that are now in charge of battalions inside Syria.

Mr Fleming added: “Whether the work of Isis in Deir-ez-Zor or Turkish-linked terror group Ahrar al-Shaab in Hasekeh, the intention and impact of these attacks on the local, civilian population is the same.

“They are intended to prevent co-operation between co-existing peoples in north-east Syria, destabilise infrastructure and shatter the fragile peace in the region, paving the way for the expected Turkish invasion.”

Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened a third invasion of the region in a bid to effectively annex whole swathes of Syrian territory along the border area.

His threats were rebuffed by the United States, which warned that any unilateral incursion into the Kurdish region would be “unacceptable.”

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