Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces seize over 10,000 ISIS documents

Kurdish fighters break into a former security center for ISIS in northern Raqqa. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

ALEPPO – The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have seized thousands of documents and digital devices from the Islamic State (ISIS) militants, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

This comes amid continuing operations by the Kurdish-Arab alliance of the SDF against ISIS in the Manbij pocket on Syria-Turkey border. 

“They [SDF] seized more than 10,000 documents from the outlying edges of Manbij, including textbooks, propaganda posters, cellphones, laptops, maps and digital storage devices,” said Colonel Chris Garver, a spokesman for the US-led anti-ISIS campaign.

“Exploitation of this information is ongoing to better understand Daesh networks and techniques, including the systems to manage the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq,” he added, using an Arabic abbreviation for the ISIS group.

On Tuesday, the SDF forces revealed that they captured the home of a Russian prince of ISIS and found many documents written in Russian and even Turkish language.

Pentagon officials often highlight the value of such information, leading to new targets and helping them understand the ISIS network.

According to the US-led coalition, the SDF forces have now isolated Manbij in a five-kilometer radius around the city and are now firmly in control of its outer edges. Until now, the coalition has carried out more than 270 airstrikes to destroy ISIS vehicles and fortifications in Manbij.

Manbij as a town was a foreign fighter hub for over a year, and where most foreign fighters flow in and out of Syria. “So we actually knew what the strategic importance of that city was, as did the SDF and the folks who are conducting the operation right now,” Garver said.

The Pentagon said that numbers of foreign fighters coming into Iraq and Syria have dropped from about 2,000 a month last year to as few as 200 a month this year.

However, new estimates need to be assessed after the fight in Manbij is over. “If we can get that area completely under control, I would anticipate that to go down, but we’ll have to kind of re-look at those numbers when that happens,” he added.

In total, he says there are still 19 to 25,000 ISIS fighters active, and ISIS is trying to force locals to fight for ISIS, since they lack the ability to bring reinforcements. 

“You don’t see the massive amounts of movement. It’s certainly been whittled down in its size,” Col. Garver told reporters on Wednesday.

In the meantime, the US-backed rebel group of the New Syrian Army has launched a new operation against ISIS in Deir ez-Zor province in eastern Syria, in a bid to capture the al-Bukamal crossing on the Syria-Iraq border. 

ISIS militants took over the al-Bukamal crossing in mid-2014, when the group captured swaths of territory on both sides of the border.

Reporting by: Helin Saeed and Wladimir van Wilgenburg  

Source: ARA News 

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