The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) released 400 former ISIS fighters a mere few weeks after they had been captured, the opposition media outlet Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on Tuesday. The report added that the released ISIS fighters include dozens of well-known ISIS members and commanders.
Moreover, the SOHR said that the SDF even allowed 120 former ISIS fighters from Deir Ezzor and al-Hasakah governorates to join its ranks. The former ISIS fighters who joined the SDF are all related to SDF leaders, according to the report.
Image source: Al Shahid News
The release of these former ISIS fighters has led to new tensions in eastern Syria, as the locals who were victims of these fighters clashed with them in many villages, according to the SOHR. The media outlet even said that weapons were used by the new “SDF members” against the locals; however, the US-backed forces didn’t step in to end the clashes, according to the source.
Significantly, SOHR is a well-known pro-rebel opposition source which has served as a go-to prime outlet for the mainstream media over the course of the war in Syria. The original report reads as follows:
Villages and towns in the Syria Democratic Forces-held areas in the eastern and the north-western countryside of Deir Ezzor as well as the southern countryside of Al-Hasakah, are witnessing tension accompanied by skirmishes between residents in these areas against former members in the “Islamic State” organization, and according to details obtained by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights from a number of reliable sources, the SDF released more than 400 members of the organization [ISIS] of Syrian nationalities, who come from Deir Ezzor and Al-Hasakah countryside...
The SOHR report continues:
And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also learned that the released members include tens of important commanders in Deir Ezzor countryside, as well as security and military officials, economists and Sharia men of the organization, some of them of the dissidents from the regime forces in previous years who joined the organization later, while the SOHR monitored that more than 120 members of them have joined the SDF, most of them are people of clans include commanders in the SDF in Deir Ezzor and Al-Hasakah countryside, while residents expressed their fears of that the members of the organization have surrender as a preliminary step to form sleeper cells in the SDF-held areas, and carry out explosions and assassinations which may kill citizens and members of the SDF, as several areas controlled by the SDF deep in their held areas in Deir Ezzor countryside, witnessed attacks by booby trapped vehicles and light weapons which left tens of casualties and wounded.
Thus far, the Kurdish-dominated SDF has released hundreds of former ISIS fighters including 75 former ISIS fighters on May 8, 2017 and 86 others on November 8, 2017. Most of ISIS fighters who were released previously, were captured in action by the SDF during the Raqqa battle.
The Russian center for reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria said on December 16, 2017 that the US-led coalition is using refugee camps controlled by the SDF in al-Hasakah governorate as a base for training former members of ISIS.
Many observers have warned that the SDF is attempting to absorb Syrian ISIS fighters in order to create a new Arab force within the SDF, which will lead to more terrorism in Syria and the region.