SYRIA: Unknown armed men infiltrated Deir ez-Zor protest and commander of SDF’s Al-Bukamal Regiment assassinated amid campaign of targeted attacks

DEIR EZ-ZOR, Syria — On Thursday evening, gunmen assassinated the commander of the Al-Bukamal Regiment of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Sha’aban al-Mu’at, near the town of Hajin in the Deir ez-Zor countryside.

The 33-year-old al-Mu’at was recently promoted to commander the regiment and was killed by gunmen riding a motorcycle.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the assassination.

Earlier, commander of Deir ez-Zor Military Council, Ahmad al-Khubail, known as Abo Khawla al-Dayri, declared that the Syrian government and Iranian militias have been working to sow discord in Deir ez-Zor towns by recruiting people who cross the Euphrates River to act as their agents in North and East Syria.

“We have got documents and recorded confessions from militants who were arrested while they were attacking Deir ez-Zor Military Council positions,” he added.

The eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor has witnessed a series of violent incidents and crimes that have accelerated in recent weeks.

According to a report by the city’s tribal elders, gunmen have been seen in and around the farms of the Al-Shahil area. In response, the SDF began a combing operation in the area, arresting seven men who had participated in the targeting of security checkpoints of the Deir ez-Zor Military Council (DMC) during a peaceful demonstration against the assassinations of tribal leaders in an attempt to sow discord between the local population and the SDF.

Provocateurs at Protests

Earlier in the week, people took to the streets in Deir ez-Zor took to the streets to demand the SDF and Internal Security Forces (ISF) expedite the investigation into the assassination campaign. During the protest, small arms fire was exchanged between security forces and a number of men in the crowd,

Several media outlets and human rights organizations erroneous reported that the SDF forces opened fire on the unarmed, peaceful protesters.

However, Mahmoud Awwad al-Huwaidi from the Al-Akkidat tribe was among those who participated in the demonstration in the village of Diban, described a very situation. Al-Huwaidi told Hawar News that around 25 armed men entered the demonstrations after they had already begun and began opening fire on the forces of the DMC.

Al-Huwaidi indicated that the group of armed men were not from the region and that during the skirmishes, the DMC managed to kill several and chased the remainder until they fled across the Euphrates River.

To help ensure future security in the region, the SDF has repositioned its forces along the northern bank of the Euphrates River stretching from Al-Busayrah all the way to the Iraqi border.

Shorsh Sardar, a field commander with the SDF, told Hawar that the redeployment of SDF forces to the area comes after the emergence of increased Islamic State and Syrian regime activity.

The SDF had handed over security operations to local forces after concluding a large-scale anti-terror operation in mid-July.

Members of the Deir ez-Zor Military Council (DMC).

Meddling of External Forces?

Ahmed Abu Khawla, commander of the DMC, said that several internal and regional parties were behind the attacks taking place in Deir ez-Zor with the aim of inciting tribesmen against the SDF and creating strife among the peoples of the region.

In Rish Ayno (Ras al-Ayn), occupied by Turkish forces and the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) since their invasion of the region in October 2019, factions of the SNA rallied in supposed solidarity with the Al-Akkidat tribe against the SDF, roaming the streets in vehicles calling on residents to demonstrate against the SDF and repeating anti-SDF slogans.

Sheikh Abdel Rahman al-Rashid, one of the elders of the Al-Jawala tribe in North and East Syria’s Gozarto (Jazira) Region, explained that he believed the campaign of assassinations are the workings of external forces trying to spread discord among the components of the region.

“The components of northern and eastern Syria, the tribal elders and sheikhs stand together against these actions that are far from the values ​​and principles of the Syrian people,” said al-Rashid, recalling the assassination Sheikh Faisal Bashir al-Huwaidi in Raqqa two years ago and its echoes in the current targeting of elders from the Al-Akkidat tribe.

Al-Rashid explained that the peoples of North and East Syria have created a cohesive society out of the ruins of war, explained al-Rashid, which has made it a target of external forces trying to control it through division.

Sheikh Abdel Rahman al-Rashid, one of the elders of the Al-Jawala.