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Security Brief: Weapons and Tactics, Week of November 8, 2021

Week of Monday, November 08, 2021 | Issue 04

Megan Proudfoot, Weapons and Tactics Team

Syrian Prison Camps[1]

Date: November 8, 2021

Location: Deir al-Zour, Syria

Parties involved: Syria; US; International Coalition Forces; Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF); Islamic State (IS); United Kingdom (UK); Denmark; Germany; France; Other European countries

The event: On Monday, November 8, 2021 local security forces affiliated with the US-backed SDF stopped a plot by a suspected IS group cell to attack the Sina’a prison holding IS fighters in Hasakah, Syria. SDF received intelligence that an IS cell in Deir al-Zour region was planning to attack the prison. With support from the international coalition forces, SDF identified the location of the cell and waged an operation against it. One IS militant died, another was wounded, and four others were arrested in the operation. Dozens of firearms, rockets, and improvised explosive devices were also seized. This operation marks a rising trend of prison attacks by IS cells in Syria. To reduce overcrowding of prisons, the SDF has requested countries to take back their citizens who joined the IS.[2] However, countries like the UK, Denmark, Germany, and France are hesitant to repatriate these citizens, even children.[3] This hesitation can be explained by the increasing risk of children being radicalized during their time in Syria[4]. IS has used children as spies and suicide bombers, as children are highly impressionable and vulnerable to radical ideologies.[5]

The implications:

  • Attacks on SDF prisons will likely continue as IS attempts to free their members and replenish their ranks. The number of weapons seized very likely indicates that the cell was planning on conducting more attacks on SDF prisons. If a large number of IS prisoners are released from these prisons, IS would likely have the capacity to rebuild the Islamic State Caliphate.

  • Interacting with IS operatives will likely radicalize moderate Islamists and motivate them to join the organization after their release. Anger about the ill-treatment of prisoners by SDF will likely radicalize inmates and encourage them to carry out attacks for IS after their release.

  • IS will likely leverage the presence of vulnerable children in prisons and indoctrinate them with IS ideology. IS will likely offer financial incentives to children to conduct attacks upon their release. Radicalized children can likely be used by IS for attacks as security personnel would be unsuspecting of children, likely enabling them to carry out attacks easily.

  • European countries are unlikely to repatriate imprisoned IS members due to the threat to their national security. These citizens would have almost certainly been able to established terrorist networks in Syria and could likely leverage them to commit attacks in their home country. Repatriating IS members would likely lead to protests and an increase in Islamophobia in European countries.

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[2] US-Backed Forces Say They Foiled IS Prison Break in Northeast Syria, VOA News, November 2021,

[3] Why European Countries Are Reluctant To Repatriate Citizens Who Are ISIS Fighters, NPR News, December 2019,

[4] Beyond good and evil: Why Europe should bring ISIS foreign fighters home, European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2019,

[5] Why Afghanistan’s Children Are Used as Spies and Suicide Bombers, PBS, November 2015,



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