Kurdish forces seize dozens of suspected IS members in Syria

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BEIRUT (UKTN) — U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters in northeastern Syria launched an operation Wednesday against suspected Islamic State militants in the area in retaliation for an attack by the extremist group there last month, according to a statement.

The Syrian Democratic Forces said they raided “dozens of potential points and hideouts” in the city of Raqqa – formerly held by the Islamic State group – and the surrounding area, and arrested dozens of suspected IS members. US-led coalition forces provided air cover and drone surveillance during the operation, the statement said.

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The operation was in response to an IS attack on Raqqa in late December that killed six members of Kurdish-led forces. The SDF also announced the formation of a “joint operations room” backed by the international coalition, targeting IS cells.

Kurdish-led forces in Syria regularly conduct joint anti-IS patrols with the US-led coalition. The patrols were temporarily halted late last year when Turkey launched a campaign of airstrikes against Kurdish groups in Syria in retaliation for a deadly explosion in Istanbul in November. Ankara blamed Kurdish groups for the attack, a claim the groups deny.

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The SDF said IS is “trying to reorganize the terrorist cells and appoint new leaders” and “is giving instructions to move from individual to group terrorist attacks on the prisons” where IS members are held, according to its intelligence.

More than 42,400 foreign fighters and about 23,200 Syrians accused of links to IS – and their families – are being held in camps and prisons in northeastern Syria, according to a Human Rights Watch report last month. The report described the appalling conditions in the detention centers and called for the repatriation of the detained foreigners – most of them women and children – through their countries.

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Western countries have been repatriating an increasing number of their citizens from northeastern Syria, including most recently France, which returned a group of 32 minors and 15 women on Tuesday.

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