SDF arrests pro-Turkish ‘sleeper cells’ in Syria's Manbij: official
Manbij Military Council (MMC) told Rudaw English on Thursday that its forces have captured a number of pro-Turkish “sleeper cells” in Manbij, who allegedly belong to Operation Euphrates Shield. They are accused of trying to “destabilize” the area.
The Euphrates Shield forces wanted to secretly form a network in Manbij city. We are investigating it. We have also arrested some who have connections with Euphrates Shield. They want to destabilize the situation for civilians,” Mohammed Abu Adel, commander of MMC, told Rudaw English.
MMC is affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is predominantly controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). MMC and SDF are supported by the US-led coalition against ISIS. US troops operate a base in the city.
The council published a statement on Wednesday saying it suspects Turkey was behind an IED blast on March 29. The Kurdish commander said there were no casualties. On the same day, a separate IED, thought to have been planted by ISIS, killed two coalition soldiers and wounded at least four SDF fighters.
“The aim of the people involved is to … give the false impression of instability among the local population of Manbij,” the statement read.
Turkey has threatened to expand Operation Olive Branch from Afrin to Manbij to clear the YPG from its borders. Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organization, fostering ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a link the two groups deny. Such an action could bring Turkish and US forces into direct confrontation. A Turkish military assault has not materialized.
“Instead, Turkey sends groups to the city secretly, carries out explosions, and attaches explosives to vehicles,” Abu Adel claims.
He admitted part of the Manbij population is Turkish-affiliated and another part affiliated to radical groups, “but 70 percent of people are with the Manbij council.”
The commander said the council has bolstered it forces in Manbij and coalition operations against ISIS are ongoing.