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Islamic State less visible in Al-Bokamel amidst assassinations, airstrikes

January 19, 2015 By Dan Wilkofsky and Ammar Hamou AMMAN: […]

19 January 2015

January 19, 2015

By Dan Wilkofsky and Ammar Hamou

AMMAN: The number of Islamic State checkpoints and al-Hisbeh patrols have reportedly dwindled in the Syrian border town of Al-Bokamel on Monday following a string of assassinations against IS fighters in recent weeks and US-led coalition airstrikes, reported pro-opposition media campaign Deir e-Zor is Being Slaughtered Silently.

“The news is true,” an opposition military source residing in Deir e-Zor city, who requested anonymity, told Syria Direct Monday of the diminished Islamic State checkpoints and patrols.

The reported dismantling of checkpoints comes after Al-Bokamel, located in Deir e-Zor province, was bombed by the international coalition on Saturday, the military source said, adding that several Islamic State checkpoint guards died in the airstrikes.

While an Islamic State presence still exists in the town, patrols by members of al-Hisbeh, who roam the streets of IS-controlled territories and enforce the group’s own interpretation of sharia law, “have decreased after the assassinations against them there [in Al-Bokamel],” the source said.

081114alBokamelMap Syrian border town of al-Bokamel. Photo courtesy of French Foreign Ministry, Geography Department.

The vigilante killings of IS fighters by unknown perpetrators began “some time ago, but over the last two weeks more than 30 IS members have been killed [across Deir e-Zor].”

The assassinations are not limited to Al-Bokamel. Unknown assailants have targeted IS fighters in the city of Mayadeen, also in Deir e-Zor province,  over the past two weeks. The gunmen have not publicized why they are picking off Islamic State fighters, but one activist in Mayadeen says the group has alienated residents since taking over the city last July.  

“It may be because of their practices and behavior…their seizing citizens’ homes on charges of apostasy and treason, as well as [frequent] beheadings,” a media activist in Mayadeen told Syria Direct.

The Islamic State is targeting women in particular; picking them up from the streets and taking them to al-Hisbah headquarters to punish them for not wearing “proper” clothing.

“That raises the anger of the street considerably,” the activist said.

Al-Bokamel sits along the Syrian-Iraqi border, which the Islamic State considers part of its caliphate. This week, IS decided to funnel troops into Iraq from Al-Bokamel and possibly other parts of Deir e-Zor to combat a new Iraqi army offensive against IS positions in Anbar province, which could also account for the group’s dwindling presence in the town.

An Iraqi army operation on Sunday reportedly killed 60 IS fighters in western Anbar province, among them an Islamic State leader, General-Officer Diaa Kazim was quoted by IraqiNews as saying. Pictures of the IS leader’s head on top of a wall circulated on Facebook Monday.

A citizen journalist in Al-Bokamel confirmed on his Facebook page on Monday that the IS checkpoints had been dismantled, adding that he saw carloads of Islamic State fighters leaving town.

“Five cars of [IS fighters] are going toward Iraq from the town and countryside of Al-Bokamel… to help al-Baghdadi’s gang because they are eating shit [there].” 

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