June Sleeper Cell Report – Successful raids and ongoing attacks in Deir ez-Zor

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Anti-Terror Units (YAT) raid in the village of Al-Dahleh, Deir Ezzor (SDF press)

Key points

  • 15 confirmed sleeper cell attacks across NES in June, a significant decrease from the 23 attacks registered in May
  • ISIS attacks kill 6 military personnel and injure 3, kill 2 civilians and injure 3
  • Iraq repatriated 150 families from al-Hol camp
  • YPJ and SDF arrest a prominent ISIS leader in Deir ez-Zor canton


This month RIC recorded 15 sleeper cell attacks in NES, a significant decrease from the 23 registered in May. Once more these attacks are concentrated in the canton of Deir ez-Zor with only one of them happening in the Jazeera canton. ISIS’ June attacks killed 6 military personnel and injured 3, and killed 2 civilians and injured 3. The SDF and Asayish conducted 8 counter-ISIS raids, similarly to the 7 registered in May. In these raids 12 ISIS members were arrested and 5 killed, a slight decrease from the 14 arrested in May.

In one of these raids, on June 2nd, in the village of Umm Jarn village in Tel Hamis, the SDF with the support of the Coalition arrested 3 ISIS members, including “Abdullah Mohammed Ibrahim,” aka “Abi Hisham” responsible for helping some families of ISIS members detained in al-Hol camp to escape. In the beginning of the month, on June 3rd, the Anti-Terror Units (YAT) together with the Coalition ”dismantled a dangerous ISIS terrorist cell in the village of Al-Dahleh, Deir ez-Zor countryside”, after the ISIS militants refused to surrender and started shooting, “YAT responded decisively, resulting in the elimination of all five cell members”. This ISIS cell was responsible for last month’s car bomb attack (May 10th) as well as a second one this month, on July 3rd which left 1 SDF fighter injured

In this month’s raids several high figures of ISIS were arrested. In the town of Al-Shuhayl in the Deir ez-Zor canton, on July 13th, 2 members of ISIS were detained. One of them, named “Faysal Ziyad Asfad,” aka “Mash’al Al-Iraqi”, was one of the most wanted ISIS members in the region. During ISIS control of the region, Faysal was the assistant of the “Wali”, the ruler of a region of ISIS’s caliphate. 

On June 26th, YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) stated that in a raid carried out in the town of Shuhail, they arrested Abu Ghamid, a “prominent mercenary ISIS leader”. YPJ said that “Abu Ghamid played a significant role in ISIS’s terrorist activities in the region and in Turkey for years” and that “he formed a brigade called the “Bujamaal Revolutionaries Brigade.” This formation, affiliated with ISIS, aimed to incite tensions and strife between the locals and the SDF”. The fact that highly important ISIS members are being arrested is a hard blow to ISIS activity, yet, their presence in the region also confirms the danger that ISIS still poses to the security and stability of NES.

SDF positions continue to be a main target for ISIS attacks. On June 15th an SDF fighter was killed in the Al-Ragheeb checkpoint in Hawayej Zaiban town in Deir ez-Zor after ISIS militants shot at it. On the same day, the car of a commander of the Hajin Military Council, part of the SDF, was targeted by ISIS members. His two escorts were killed and the commander was injured. 

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and International Coalition Forces conducting military exercises.

ISIS also continues its campaign of intimidation against the local population, in particular those who work close with the DAANES. On June 2nd, in the town of Al-Hawayej, ISIS militants attempted to assassinate an employee of DAANES’  Financial Department. Later in the month, on June 29th, 1 employee of the municipality of Al-Baseiyrah city, was assassinated by ISIS militants, and a medical centre was attacked in Hemar Al-Ali village. This attack wounded 3 civilians and killed 1 SDF fighter. An Imam in the area of Sabaghah, who was also a member of the local Commune, was assassinated by ISIS on June 30th. The intensity of the attacks can be explained by the upcoming anniversary of the announcement of the ISIS caliphate by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a date with a lot of meaning to ISIS militants.

Another trend was the continuation of attacks on oil related targets. This is part of ISIS’ strategy to create instability in the region and impact the region’s economy. On June 9th, 24th and 29th, RIC registered 4 oil trucks being targeted in ISIS ambushes, leaving only material damage. Some oil sites were also targeted and damaged. For example, on June 25th, after the oil investor of an oil well refused to pay Zakat (ISIS tax) two ISIS militants set the oil well on fire

Outside of NES, but with high implications for NES, the US announced that they “conducted an airstrike in Syria, killing Usamah Jamal Muhammad Ibrahim al-Janabi, a senior ISIS official and facilitator.” The airstrike took place on June 16th in Turkish-occupied Afrin. Senior ISIS members have been able to hide in the Turkish-occupied areas, RIC reports about the situation of the Occupied areas in its Occupation Reports and has reported on the SNA’s connection to ISIS and other islamist forces in  “The Syrian National Army: The Turkish Proxy Militias of Northern Syria” report.