ISIL (ISIS) has killed at least 30 Syrian pro-government militia and soldiers stationed in the desert, underscoring the group’s persistent threat years after its territorial defeat.
ISIL waged parallel machine gun attacks in the regions of Raqqa, Homs, and Deir ez-Zor on Wednesday morning, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor.
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The attacks killed 26 members of the National Defence Forces, a pro-government militia, along with four soldiers. The observatory said it expected the death toll to rise due to an unspecified number of wounded, some of whom are in critical condition.
The monitor also said Russian warplanes had conducted strikes on ISIL’s positions in the desert, causing casualties among its members.
String of attacks
ISIL, an armed group that once commanded an estimated 50,000 fighters, declared its own “caliphate” across large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014.
The group was ousted from Syria in 2019 but its vestiges continue to hide out in the desert and plot deadly hit-and-run attacks, targeting both pro-government forces and Kurdish-led fighters.
ISIL was blamed for a string of deadly attacks on government loyalists earlier this year after it announced the death of its leader and named his replacement – the group’s fifth chief – as Abu Hafs al-Hashimi al-Qurashi.
In August, 33 Syrian soldiers were killed near Mayadeen in Deir Ez-Zor province, while 10 pro-government militiamen were killed in Raqqa, ISIL’s former stronghold.
The same month, the group attacked a convoy of oil tankers in the Syrian desert, killing seven people including two civilians.
Syria’s war broke out after President Bashar al-Assad’s government crushed peaceful pro-democracy protests in 2011 and then drew in foreign powers and armed groups from around the world.
The conflict has killed more than 500,000 people and driven half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.
Damascus initially lost control over much of Syria to opposition factions, Kurdish fighters, and ISIL.
However, the army gradually reclaimed territory with support from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group. Russia’s involvement since September 2015 shifted the balance further in the government’s favour. Damascus now controls around two-thirds of the country.