BEIRUT (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State on Thursday called for an end to fighting in northeastern Syria, where the Kurdish-led force it backs is engaged in deadly fighting with Arab tribesmen.
“Violence in northeastern Syria must stop,” the coalition said in a statement, stressing that “distractions” from fighting ISIS sleeper cells risk a resurgence of the group.
Clashes erupted on Sunday after the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces arrested Ahmad Al Khubail, alias Abu Khawla, who headed the Deir al-Zor Council.
The SDF said Abu Khawla was arrested and sacked from his post for complicity in multiple crimes, including drug trafficking and for failing to address the looming ISIS threat in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor.
The province is home to several large Arab tribes and the arrest of Abu Khawla has sparked clashes between them and the SDF. According to local sources and witnesses, at least 40 fighters from both sides and 15 other civilians were killed in the violence.
The US-led coalition has helped the SDF – which includes a small Arab component – oust ISIS from swathes of territory in northern and eastern Syria over the past seven years.
ISIS lost its last territorial bastion, Baghouz, located in Deir al-Zor, in 2019 to the SDF. ISIS still operates sleeper cells in parts of Syria and has conducted hit-and-run attacks.
(Reporting by Maya Gebeily; Editing by Leslie Adler)