New! COVID Reporting Subscription €147 / month. Find out more

February 7, 2022 / Riskline Informer

Death of IS leader in US raid offers little comfort after prison break in Syria

Despite the death of the new leader of the Islamic State (IS), a major prison break in Syria signals that major IS attacks with the goal of rebuilding their former strength are certain.

Introduction

On 2-3 February, a United States (US)-led military operation in Syria’s northwestern Idlib governorate to capture Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of the Islamic State (IS) group, ended in his apparent suicide to avoid capture. On the face of it, the news appeared to help calm international fears of an impending return to power for the group, whose remnants had just executed a brazen multi-pronged attack on a high-profile prison in Syria’s Hasakah governorate that freed at least 400 detained IS cadres on 20 January.

The death of al-Qurayshi during the US-led night raid on his house in the town of Atmeh is no doubt a blow to the group’s morale, but it is unclear if it will significantly disrupt its plans to reconstitute their “Caliphate” in northeastern Syria as very little information is known about how involved al-Qurayshi, who previously organized the ethnic cleansing of the region’s Yazidi minority, was in the planning of current attacks and overall strategy.

Ever since taking over from his more well-known predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who also killed himself to avoid capture by the US in Syria in 2019, al-Qurayshi maintained a lower profile. Unlike his predecessor, he rarely released audio clips for his followers and never appeared in public. IS also maintains a presence in remote rural areas of neighbouring Iraq but it is unclear to what extent IS cells in both countries coordinate their operations.

Developments in the countryside of northeastern Syria, which is under the control of the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), offer little reason for optimism. In recent months, IS remnants regained momentum and expanded their use of small-scale attacks against locations and facilities of the SDF, whose leaders have been publicly calling for further assistance from the US and other Western powers in staving off a possible comeback for the group.

Plan of Attack and Revival

The most significant move by the group thus far, the 20 January attack on the SDF-controlled al-Sina’a prison is particularly concerning as the group has previously relied on prison breaks to rebuild their ranks and restock weapons supplies to retake territories lost in their defeat in Syria and Iraq following a US-led campaign in 2017-2018.

Western leaders, along with the SDF, are also concerned about the level of sophistication demonstrated in the attack. It began with a truck bomb, which was followed by the deployment of fighters around the facility. Many of the fighters wore military fatigues similar to those worn by the SDF in a successful effort to confuse Kurdish security forces as they arrived on the scene. As the fighters began chasing prison guards and spreading into al-Zuhour and Taqqadum neighbourhoods, other IS fighters launched simultaneous attacks on SDF checkpoints and locations, including the home of an SDF commander, with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy gunfire.

It took the SDF, with aerial and on-the-ground support from the US military, 11 days to put an end to the uprising, which ended with no territorial gains for the group, but killed at least 121 SDF personnel and civilians. SDF forces said at least 374 IS prisoners and fighters were killed in the clashes. The prison held roughly 3,000-3,500 inmates, including 700-800 adolescents; most inmates surrendered or were recaptured following the clashes, but at least 400 remain unaccounted for.

The SDF holds roughly 10,000 IS prisoners, many of whom were key figures in the group, in similar facilities lacking the resources to effectively secure the prisoners. (The al-Sina’a facility was a technical school before being rapidly converted into a prison.) The SDF and Syrian Kurds in general are hostile to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad due to their support for the 2011 Arab Spring revolt and subsequent support for moderate rebel groups in the Syrian Civil War. While they have managed to establish autonomous control over northeastern Syria, their resources are severely limited and US and other Western support has dwindled.

While it is too early to gauge the damage that the escape of those 400 IS prisoners will do to security in the region, it is clear that unless the warning served by the 20 January attack is heeded, SDF prisons remain extremely vulnerable to attack, presenting new opportunities for IS to rebuild itself.

Summary

While the Islamic State (IS) has failed to take and hold new territories or solidify its leadership structure over the past three years, the group’s recent attacks on US allies in Syria underscore its ability to come back from defeat and plan for the future.

Share This
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Continue Reading

Protect your organisation’s assets

Complement your expertise with our comprehensive risk reports
You can concentrate on protection strategies because we’ve already done the initial research. Riskline has risk reports for over 225 countries and regions around the world, and city safety reports for over 250 cities. We follow developments around the world everyday so you can stay focused on protecting your assets.

Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Power your data-driven insurance

Risk intelligence that helps you manage loss ratios and generate new revenue
Improve the accuracy of your underwriting and dynamic pricing models with our suite of destination risk reports and 24/7 global alerts. We follow developments around the world everyday so you can take comfort that your product decisions reflect up-to-date risk information. Our data can also be integrated as a value-added service by providing pre-travel advice and risk alerts that keep customers updated wherever they are in the world.

Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Manage COVID-19 disruptions

Your single trusted source for COVID-19 risk and restrictions around the globe
Stay updated with our up-to-the-minute information on testing, vaccination and quarantine requirements, COVID-19 infection rates and trends, and local restrictions. You can easily integrate our data directly into your systems through our dedicated COVID-19 API and TravelCheck widget, or get detailed reports in one place through the Microsite.

Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Offer travellers vital trip information

Offer your clients a full package of travel services
You’re the experts in bookings, itineraries and expenses, let our experts take care of destination risk assessments and real-time travel alerts. In this increasingly volatile world, you can offer your customers the best view of where it’s safe for them to travel, and what to expect on their trip.

Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Make decisions quickly with verified information

Ensure duty of care for employees and stay updated
When responding to a crisis you want to stay up-to-date with accurate information. We take care of providing up-to-date risk alerts so you can focus on planning and acting. Our destination risk reports ensure your employees are well prepared when they travel to high-risk areas, with detailed analysis of on-the-ground risks and baseline operating conditions.

Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Travellers are safer when they stay informed

Riskline Alert Messaging operates all day, every day. Each alert contains essential intelligence, practical advice and precise geographic data about risks to traveller safety or impacts on travel plans. When we are able to get advanced warning, notices are also issued for events happening in the future.
Riskline Informer
Keep informed of key developments around the world.

Helping travellers manage Covid-19 disruptions

We have closely tracked developments associated with COVID-19 since late 2019, gathering detailed information on entry and exit requirements, You can get our real-time COVID-19 intelligence via alerts, API, microsite, and the TravelCheck widget.
Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Risk ratings you can build a travel policy around

Riskline has detailed assessments for more than 225 countries and territories around the world. Each report has an easy-to-understand Risk Level™ that can be integrated into travel policies and other business operations. Risk assessments include an overview of the security and travel safety situation in a country, and detailed analysis of the political, terrorism, conflict, unrest, crime, natural, health and local transport risks.
Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Know more about where you actually go

We assess the safety of more than 250 global cities, assigning each a clear Risk Level. In addition to city-specific threats and other local knowledge, every report has a map of important locations down to street level.
Use Cases
See how our City Safety Reports can help keep your travellers safe.

People make better decisions when they have the full picture

Advisories are detailed assessments of ongoing security situations and travel issues. We publish reports for high-risk geographic areas, political and security crises, persisting travel disruptions and major upcoming events, such as elections and international sporting competitions.
Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Today’s most important security and travel news in your inbox

Riskline delivers the most important security and travel news of the past day as well as critical events planned for today in the Daily Brief email. Three editions mean that you get the right news, no matter where you are in the world.
Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

Get prepared before you travel

Riskline Pre-Travel Advisories (PTAs) are exactly what a traveller needs to know about their destination before they leave home. Each report is a concise summary of the security and travel safety situation for any destination, and can be sent straight to travellers’ emails.

Let our experts show you how Riskline can keep you informed.

The right guidance for specific needs

Not all travellers are the same. Riskline’s Specific Traveller Advice includes country-specific information tailored for LGBTQ+ travellers, female travellers and tech-dependent travellers.

Riskline Informer
Keep informed of key developments around the world.

Covid-19 travel advice at your fingertips

Don’t let COVID-19 confusion get in the way of your customers’ decisions. Give them a tool at their fingertips that lets them see the implications of Covid on their travel plans and how best to prepare for their trip. TravelCheck displays up to date risk and infection scores, at-a-glance information on their destination and need-to-know information on departure, in-flight and arrival.

It’s easy to customise your widget with your own brand colour and poster image, to seamlessly integrate it into your website.

Our simple Javascript installation will get you up and running in no time. A few lines of code is all it takes to install the widget, with 2 display modes available – inline for embedding into a single page, or modal for a floating, site-wide travel assistant.

Interested in trying our TravelCheck widget? Get in touch.

Keep Informed

Get the latest Riskline Informer news delivered to your inbox.

Cookies

We use cookies to improve our services.
Find out more