SDF capture 'five foreign fighters' from IS sleeper cell in Syria, including two Americans
Two Americans, two Pakistanis and an Irishman have been detained after being allegedly planning an attack on civilians fleeing the Islamic State group's last stronghold in Syria.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) this weekend said it picked up five suspected foreign jihadi fighters, including two US citizens, on 30 December.
The SDF said its forces detected "a group of terrorists who had been preparing to attack the civilians who were trying to get out of the war zone".
"An operation against the cell was carried out by our forces," it said.
Mugshots of the five suspects were also published, as the SDF leads an assault on the last IS pockets in eastern Syria, close to the Iraqi border.
They named the suspected IS militants as Warren Christopher Clark and Zaid Abed al-Hamid from the US, Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev from Ireland, and Fadel al-Rahman and Abed al-Azem Rajhoud from Pakistan.
Thousands of foreign fighters joined IS, when leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced in 2014 the formation of "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq.
The SDF have managed to regain much of Syria back from thee group and say they are holding 1,000 foreign jihadist fighters, as well as 550 foreign women and 1,200 children who lived with them.
A significant contingent of these foreign fighters are from France, the main US partner in the coalition assisting Kurdish forces, but the number of Americans are believed to be low.
The fate of these foreign fighters and their families is a complex and sensitive issue, with most of their home countries reluctant to bring them back home.
Syria's Kurds argue they do not have the capacity to keep them locked up much longer.
IS still control a number of villages along Euphrates River largest ones are Sousa and Bahgouz, following the capture on Saturday of al-Shaafa, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights war monitor.