Turkish invasion provokes 48% rise in ISIS sleeper cell attacks


New research by Rojava Information Center finds:

  • Turkish invasion of North and East Syria provokes 48% rise in ISIS sleeper cell attacks
  • Swift rise in attacks reverses ongoing decrease in sleeper cell attacks previously achieved by SDF and Coalition raids
  • Rise in attacks comes as SDF and Coalition anti-ISIS raids fall by 75% following Turkish invasion
  • ISIS claim 51 deaths in attacks from Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor to Hol camp and Qamishlo

The week leading up to the Turkish invasion on 9 October saw a little over 1 ISIS sleeper-cell attack a day (1.1/day), whereas the three weeks to the end of the month following the invasion saw 38 attacks in 21 days, or 1.8 attacks a day – an immediate 48% increase.

Turkey’s invasion has reversed previous successes made by the SDF against ISIS, with the month prior to the Turkish invasion seeing a 46% decrease in overall sleeper cell attacks: from 95 in August, to 51 in September.

With the security situation continuing to deteriorate as SDF forces are pulled away from anti-terror work to combat the ongoing Turkish invasion, these trends are likely to continue into the months ahead. One likely focal point is Hol camp, where two-thirds of camp security have been pulled away from their work – with the camp seeing multiple security incidents this month.

The rate of the attacks will be further precipitated by the SDF-supported raid which killed Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. ISIS supporters are already discussing plans for revenge and a ‘month of rage’ via pro-ISIS networks. Turkish-backed sleeper cell group Haraket-al-Qiyam, notorious for their brutal execution videos, also announced their re-emergence to coincide with the Turkish invasion.

A highly successful partnership between SDF and the International Coalition against ISIS was disrupted by the Turkish invasion. As previous Rojava Information Center research has shown, the three months prior to the Turkish invasion saw an average of approximately 2 raids a day, while the October average was just a raid every two days – a 75% decrease.

SDF and the Coalition have conducted 347 anti-ISIS raids and 476 arrests in 2019. Prior to October and the Turkish invasion, the number and productivity of raids was steadily increasing. As of September, joint SDF-Coalition raids were “near-daily”, per al-Monitor.

With raids falling dramatically, ISIS have been able to carry out attacks from Qamishlo to Heseke. October saw 11 sleeper-cell attacks and five deaths in Raqqa – plus 23 attacks in Deir ez Zor.

ISIS claim to have killed 51 in attacks across the region, primarily in Deir-ez-Zor. While Rojava Information Center cannot verify this count, what is certain is that ISIS continues to target village elders (‘mukhtars’) working with the Autonomous Administration as well as SDF commanders, with Mahmoud Al-Mazyouz and Abdul Latif Abdul Rahman al-Huwaidi named locally as civilian victims of assassinations.

RIC researcher Robin Fleming said:

“These statistics illustrate the immediate benefits which ISIS have drawn from Turkey’s invasion of North and East Syria. Along with high-profile breakouts enabling ISIS prisoners to flee into territory seized by Turkish-backed jihadi forces, and the presence of former ISIS members among the ranks of these same forces, ISIS sleeper cell attacks have almost doubled in the weeks following the Turkish invasion.

Turkey’s invasion undoes years of work by the SDF, first in defeating ISIS on the battlefield and then in sweeping anti-ISIS raids which have brought hundreds of sleeper cell members to justice. If the international community wants to stop this ISIS resurgence, there is only one solution: to stop to the Turkish invasion of North and East Syria.”

Please contact us for the fully sourced data-set sortable by incident type and location, live map showing all ISIS and other sleeper-cell attacks since the start of the year, and further analysis.

This data was produced in collaboration with OSINT researcher Caki, and can be explored on the live map here and the database of sources here.

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  1. […] and seriously hindered the fight against Daesh. According to a recent RIC report, the invasion has provoked a 48% increase in Daesh sleeper cell attacks and a fall in local […]

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