Although the majority of Russian airstrikes are hitting rebel positions in western Syria, Russian bombs that have targeted the Islamic State are driving the fighters to hide among civilians, but also, providing a new opportunity.
As rebels are “preoccupied” with Russian airstrikes, the Islamic State is “intensifying its car-bomb operations on the Aleppo front, and is trying to advance there,” Mohammed al-Saleh, a member of the Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently media campaign, tells Syria Direct’s Noura al-Hourani.
Q: What type of Islamic State activity have you noticed since the start of the Russian strikes on IS in A-Raqqa and other areas under its control?
IS has started moving its headquarters from buildings in the outskirts of the city to residential areas in order to hide among civilians. They also made an announcement cancelling prayers in several mosques in A-Raqqa city last Friday to avoid being targeted. Another decree orders people off the streets and to avoid gathering in the markets, especially if any plane could be seen.
We noticed a trend of desertions from IS’s foreign fighters last weekend. They are seeking sanctuary with those they trust, or heading to the desert in order to disappear, since IS started searching for them. As for local IS fighters, they rarely defect since there is no place for them to go and their family would be put in danger.
Q: RBSS did a report about IS using the Russian strikes as propaganda to attract new recruits. Are these recruits coming from outside Syria?
There isn’t an official request from IS for new fighters, but rather they have members whose job it is to continuously attract new recruits.
From what we have seen in most of their videos, IS is addressing its fighters abroad, asking that every fighter who can’t come to the Caliphate’s territory carry out on operation in the country they are in.
Q: Are repots that IS has brought its officer in charge of car bombs to Deir e-Zor from Iraq?
As of right now, I don’t have any confirmed information about IS leaders being brought from Iraq. What I know is the opposite: They are moving IS fighters from A-Raqqa to Iraq, including Abu Abdul-Rahman Ali al-Sahu, who is responsible for the security office in A-Raqqa. However, IS issaying that it is intensifying its car bomb operations on the Aleppo front, and is trying to advance there while rebels are preoccupied fighting back the Russian attack.