Recent clashes in Egypt, Syria and Iraq shows fight against ISIS is not over

Cairo said Saturday that 21 jihadists were killed in clashes with security forces in the restive Sinai.
Saturday 23/05/2020
A fighter of the Syrian Democratic forces stands guard at the entrance of the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz. (AFP)
A fighter of the Syrian Democratic forces stands guard at the entrance of the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz. (AFP)

CAIRO--Despite its military defeats and the demise of its territorial “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State (ISIS) is determined to show that it remains a threat.

But if recent clashes are any indication, the battle waged by anti-ISIS forces also continues.

In addition to the ongoing war led by Iraqi forces, backed by the international coalition to fight ISIS in Iraq as well the war against ISIS by the US-supported Kurdish forces in Syria, Egypt continues its counter-terrorism effort in the the Sinai Peninsula.

Cairo said Saturday that 21 jihadists were killed in clashes with security forces in the restive Sinai, where Islamic State group-affiliated militants wage a long-running insurgency.

The interior ministry said in a statement that police raided two hideouts of “terrorist elements” in the North Sinai governorate, sparking a gun battle in which two officers were wounded.

The two extremist groups had been planning attacks during the major Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which starts in Egypt on Sunday, sai Egyptian sources.

Security forces have been battling a long-running armed campaign by armed extremists in the Sinai Peninsula, in Egypt’s northeast for years.

The fighting intensified after the military’s 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. In February 2018, security forces launched a nationwide operation against extremists, focusing its effort on northern Sinai.

In Syria, the US-led coalition forces and their Kurdish allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces, face attempts at resurgence by the Islamic State.

In a recent attack this week, the coalition forces and their Kurdish allies killed two regional ISIS leaders in a raid in eastern Syria, US Central Command announced Friday.

Ahmad ‘Isa Ismail al-Zawi and Ahmad ‘Abd Muhammad Hasan al-Jughayfi were killed in the May 17 joint raid on an ISIS position in Deir Ezzor province, CentCom said in a statement.

Al-Zawi, also known as Abu Ali al-Baghdadi, was the ISIS regional commander of North Baghdad, it said, and was “responsible for disseminating terrorist guidance from senior ISIS leadership to operatives in North Baghdad”.

Al-Jughayfi, also known as Abu Ammar, was a senior ISIS logistics and supplies official “responsible for directing the acquisition and transport of weapons, IED materials, and personnel across Iraq and Syria,” CentCom said.

“The removal of these ISIS leaders will disrupt future attacks against innocent civilians and our security partners and in the region,” it said.

“Due to the relentless pressure maintained by the SDF, ISIS’s remaining leadership in the area continues to dwindle,” CentCom added.

Since the territorial defeat of the Islamic State in Syria in March 2019, ISIS attacks have been limited to the vast deserts stretching from Deir Ezzor to Homs in the centre of the country.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had led ISIS since 2014 and was the world’s most wanted man, was killed in an US special forces raid in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib in October 2019. but the organization and its ideology remain dangerous and experts warns that  ISIS is seeking a resurgence amid the chaos in Iraq.

The Pentagon said in January that ISIS was regenerating faster in Iraq than in Syria. Analysts estimated earlier this year that about 2,000 active combatants now operate in Iraq, noting that sleeper cells have regrouped in provinces including Diyala, Salahuddin, Anbar, Kirkuk and Nineveh.

Iraqi Security Forces routinely carry out operations against remnants of the Jihadist group who they have carried out frequent attacks, including kidnappings and bombings aimed at undermining the Baghdad government.

ISIS killed, Saturday, three policemen in an attack in the province of Nineveh, west of Mosul, an Iraqi security source said.

“ISIS fighters launched an attack at a local police checkpoint on the outskirts of Zammar district (125 km west of Mosul) and kill three policemen, including an officer with the rank of lieutenant, before fleeing to an unknown destination”, Captain Bashar Salem of the Nineveh Police said.

Experts said that this attack may be an act of revenge for the arrest by the Iraqi military of Abdul Nasser Qardash, previously considered a possible heir to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the helm of the Islamic State terrorist group.