Sleeper-Cell Report: Record Low of Attacks in July

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The secret ISIS cell lair was targeted with missiles from Coalition aircraft during an SDF raid in the countryside of Heseke

Key Points

– [UPDATE 9/17/21] 14 sleeper cell attacks were documented, marking a record low since RIC reporting began, and a 42% decrease as compared to the month of June (24)

– 9 attacks were claimed by ISIS, as compared to 15 in June

– The attacks caused 8 deaths and include one attack by a SAR-related cell in al-Tay neighborhood of Qamishlo, injuring 2

– [UPDATE 9/17/21] Hol Camp has seen 6 attacks, killing 8 people, and 4 raids leading to 15 arrests.

– Across NES, 10 raids by SDF/Asayish forces led to 24 arrests.

Map of Sleeper-Cell attacks (black dots if claimed by ISIS, red dots if unknown or claimed by another group), and SDF/Asayish raids (yellow-headed pins) across NES in July 2021.


Half of the 14 sleeper cell attacks (7) happened in Deir ez-Zor. 4 others were carried out in Raqqa and one attack happened in Qamishlo, in the Jazeera region. As usual, most attacks border the Euphrates river between Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor countryside, the area where sleeper cells are most present and active.

The attacks claimed by ISIS consisted of attacks on police posts and checkpoints (3) and shootings, killing 5 Asayish/SDF members. ISIS also claimed an attack on an oil tanker, and beheaded a civilian accused of being a spy.

The Qamishlo attack was carried out by a SAR-related militant cell in al-Tay neighborhood. Two bombs exploded injuring two women. The majority-Arab neighborhood was captured from the Damascus-backed NDF militia during clashes in April of 2021.

Since RIC started reporting on sleeper cell attacks in March 2019, after ISIS’ territorial defeat in Baghouz, the number of attacks has never been as low as this month. Since May, attacks have almost halved each month, going from 42 in May to 24 in June and down to 14 in July.

Fewer SDF raids seem to be a reflection of this trend. While in June 11 raids had led to 54 arrests, July saw 10 raids with 24 arrests. 10 ISIS suspects were captured and several weapons seized during an SDF raid in Deir ez-Zor countryside. With the support of Coalition aircraft, the SDF also carried out a raid in the eastern countryside of Heseke, targeting an ISIS-affiliated cell. During the raid on the cell’s hideout, one of the militants opened fire in an attempt to escape and killed one SDF member. The Coalition aircraft targeted the house with a missile, killing two ISIS members and facilitating the arrest of two others.

The situation in Hol Camp has remained similar. While 9 murders were documented in June, this number went down to 8 in July. All 8 were shot. An attempted smuggle out of the camp was stopped and led to the arrest of 5 individuals.

Please contact us for the fully sourced data-set sortable by incident type and location, the 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.

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