ISIS in February 2022 | Death of ISIS leader and 40 fatalities in attacks by ISIS members and cells in areas under control of regime and SDF • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

ISIS in February 2022 | Death of ISIS leader and 40 fatalities in attacks by ISIS members and cells in areas under control of regime and SDF

Although the Counter-ISIS International Coalition command and the leaders of Syria Democratic Forces announced the elimination of the so-called Caliphate of the “Islamic State” in March 2019, recent developments on the ground indicate that ISIS has not been fully eliminated. ISIS continues launching military operations and counter attacks which are met with security campaigns by Coalition forces and their Syria Democratic Forces partner throughout SDF-controlled areas, in addition to military operations by Russian and regime forces against ISIS cells in areas under their control. However, ISIS cells are still able to exploit opportunities to create security vacuum and carry out assassinations, which clearly indicate that the “Islamic State” is still alive and kicking.

The most prominent event in the 91st month after the declaration of the “Al-Baghdadi’s Caliphate,” was the death of “Abdullah Qardash”, the successor of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, ex-ISIS leader, in a “special operation” conducted by the International Coalition on February 3.

Stories varied about the circumstances of the death of the children and women and the identity of the survivors. However, only the death of Qardash is a piece of confirmed information.

It was confirmed that at least 12 people inside the building that housed Qardash were killed, as well as a member of Hayaat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) who was in a nearby area and shot dead by the security forces participating in the operation, after he had been spotted with a gun in his hand.

SOHR sources confirmed that the 12 killed people inside the building were: four children, three women, a girl, two men, and two others whose dismembered bodies were not identified whether they were adults or children. Meanwhile, one of several reports about the identity of the dead people stated that two of the murdered women were wives of Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Quraysh. However, a woman who was living on the ground floor of the building confirmed that Qardash had only one wife.

On the other hand, other sources said that Qardash’s two sons and his foreign sister and her daughter who were living on the second floor were also killed, while Qardash and another man believed to be his escort, who was also killed in the operation, lived on the first floor, amid reports suggested that this man was Qardash’s brother-in-law and he had frequented to the house. Moreover, the sources also stated that two more unidentified children were killed, as well as the presence of two other bodies whose identities remained unknown and it is not known yet if they were children or adualts.

Other stories suggested that, nobody could confirm if Qardash’s sister blew herself or was targeted directly by the Coalition Forces and then her body was torn apart. Also, remains of Qardash’s body were found in the building.

Till now, no one could confirm the exact circumstances of the death of the 12 people, whether they were killed in explosions or shot directly by the International Coalition forces, amid uncertain fate of other people who were in the building during the operation.

The correct version of the story could be only told by the Coalition forces that carried out the operation.

According to SOHR sources, Qardash lived in the targeted building for a short period, and he owned a small truck which he pretended that he used for working to conceal his real identity. While other sources said that Qardash told his neighbours that he was Turkimen and he had been displaced from Aleppo.

In the 91st month after the declaration of the “Al-Baghdadi’s Caliphate”, ISIS carried out more than 16 operations, including armed attacks and explosions,  in the areas under control of the SDF in Deir Ezzor, Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqah province.

According to SOHR statistics, ISIS killed 17 persons: two civilians and 15 members of the SDF, the Internal Security Forces and other military formations serving in areas under the control of the “Autonomous Administration”.

In the Syrian desert, however, ISIS continued their attacks in areas under the control of the Syrian regime and its allies, despite the ongoing intensive airstrikes by Russian jets and periodical security campaigns by regime forces, Russian and regime-backed militias. ISIS managed to escalate its attacks on regime forces and their proxy militias in the Syrian desert, especially in Al-Rasafah desert, the surrounding areas of Jabal Al-Bishri in Al-Raqqah, the frontlines of Ithriyah and other frontlines in the eastern countryside of Hama, the desert of Al-Sukhnah, Palmyra in Homs countryside, Deir Ezzor desert and the administrative border between Al-Raqqah and Deir Ezzor.

According to SOHR statistics, ISIS managed to kill 23 regime soldiers and loyalists in the Syrian desert in the past month in 11 attacks in the Syrian desert.

While ISIS lost 38 members in Russian airstrikes on their hotbeds in Homs, Deir Ezzor, Al-Raqqah and Hama desert.

Islamic State’s abductees: ignored and unaccounted

Although nearly 35 months have passed since the International Coalition’s announcement of the defeat of ISIS which was a dominant force east of the Euphrates River, and with the recent developments over the past period, however, silence still surrounds the issue of ISIS’s abductees. All sides remain quiet and provide no clarification on the fate of thousands of abductees, where fear continues to grow for the lives and fate of the abductees, including Father Paolo Daololio, Bishops John Ibrahim and Paul Yazji, Abdullah Al Khalil, a British journalist, sky news journalist and other journalists, in addition to hundreds of abductees from Ain Al Arab (Kobane) area and Afrin, as well as the people of Deir Ezzor.

With the continuing crimes and violations against Syrian civilians, including death threats against SOHR workers by the Islamic State and other killers and criminals in Syria, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights renews its vows to continue its work by monitoring, documenting and publishing all violations and crimes that committed against the Syrian people.

We, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, renew our call to the UN Security Council to refer those ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ committed in Syria to the International Criminal Court so that all the criminals and killers of the Syrian people are brought to justice.

SOHR has been all along warning against ISIS resurgence and stressing that the defeat of ISIS in Syrian territory, as declared in 2019, was “symbolic”, as ISIS has been only eliminated as a controlling power in populated areas. The daily attacks by ISIS fighters and cells throughout Syria, clearly indicate that the “Islamic State” is still alive and kicking. While the frequent security campaigns and military operations by regime forces, Russia, International Coalition and SDF have all failed so far to curb or hinder ISIS escalating activities.

The Syrian Observatory also points out that it had already warned, well before “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” declared itself as “Caliphate State” in Syria and Iraq, that this organization did intend to work for the Syrian people and serve their interest, but rather ISIS continued to kill innocent Syrians, who had been suffering the brutality of war and violence and became displaced.