U.S. Special Operation Forces led a Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) operation against an Islamic State cell in Syria in response to increased ISIS attacks in the region. The combined operation resulted in the capturing of an ISIS leader responsible for the recent attacks in the Deir el-Zour countryside. 

Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the U.S.-led coalition in Syria and Iraq, released a statement by spokesman Colonel Myles Caggins on Thursday highlighting the mission’s success and announcing the capture of the unnamed ISIS leader. Yet, he didn’t add much more regarding the operation in the Deir el-Zor region.

The SDF tweeted that the operation took place in a rural area of Deir el-Zor province in the village of Azzir. CJTF-OIR supports the SDF, which is mostly comprised of Kurds from the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The SDF also includes Arabs and Syrian Christians in its multi-ethnic force. 

In the initial assault, coalition forces inserted by helicopters and then troops stormed a house. Two ISIS fighters blew themselves up to avoid being captured while an Iraqi ISIS fighter was arrested according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, (SOHR). 

As the region is being hit hard by the coronavirus, ISIS has become more aggressive and is trying to rebuild its strength.

Last October, Delta Force conducted a daring raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS

Yet, the U.S. special representative for Syria, Ambassador James Jeffrey, stated that “We do not believe that ISIS has been able to exploit seriously the COVID crisis to advance in the northeast [of Syria].”   

“The area around Deir el-Zour is, as we say these days, a hot spot. We’re watching that closely, but we are confident that we have it under control,” he added.

Lieutenant Colonel Savannah Halleaux of the coalition’s Special Operations Joint Task Force, said, “there is an increase in Daesh activity this time of year, but that activity is significantly diminished compared to this time in 2019.” 

“Despite what Daesh remnants are advertising, their attacks in Iraq are far less than in previous years,” Halleaux added. “They are attempting to keep themselves relevant through disinformation on social media, regular media, and amplifying their messages for recruitment.”   

In speaking about recent ISIS activity in Iraq Colonel Caggins said that “[it] has been met by a blizzard.” He mentioned that Iraqi security forces have been active with the help of coalition airstrikes.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Deir el-Zor province, U.S forces established a new base after bringing in some 300 military shipments of supplies, the SOHR reported on Friday.

The SOHR also reported that U.S. forces are expanding their base in the al-Omar oil field in the eastern countryside of Deir el-Zour.

The Russians have been increasingly active in the region lately as they’ve been trying to check the U.S. presence there, while the citizens in the province are stuck in the middle.