RIC publishes Northern and Eastern Syria ISIS sleeper cell report for 2023

RIC published the annual North and East Syria ISIS sleeper cell report for 2023.

The Rojava Information Centre (RIC) has published its annual report on ISIS sleeper cells. The report recorded that attacks by ISIS sleeper cells fell 34% from 285 in 2022 to 189 in 2023.

The number of casualties from these attacks also fell 32% from 362 in 2022 to 247 in 2023 – which is still higher than 2021, when there were 215 attacks.


The number of SDF and Asayish raids – and subsequent arrests of suspected ISIS members – reached all-time lows at 121 raids and 352 arrests.

SDF raids targeted ISIS commanders as well as individuals responsible for finance and logistics networks.

ISIS cells continued to wage a low-level insurgency concentrated in NES’ Arab-majority regions, in particular Deir ez-Zor.

ISIS engaged in intimidation, targeting tribal and political leaders and attacking those perceived as DAANES-linked.

Massive drop in Hol camp murders – yet SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), DAANES (Democratic Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria) and Coalition figures continued to refer to the camp as a “ticking time bomb”, citing the ISIS organizational efforts inside, particularly towards children.

DAANES announced plans to hold its own trials for foreign ISIS members held in NES prisons, responding to international inaction regarding repatriation.

Turkish airstrikes disrupted counter-ISIS efforts.

In more detail, as per RIC recording, ISIS sleeper cells carried out 189 attacks across NES in 2023, a 34% decrease from 285 confirmed attacks in 2022. These attacks caused a total of 247 casualties.

Among them: 41 civilians killed, 29 civilians injured, 84 military personnel killed, and 93 military personnel injured. ISIS activity is concentrated in the Deir ez-Zor canton, particularly in the towns of al-Shuhayl, al-Busayrah, and Diban. RIC could confirm a total of 121 anti-ISIS raids conducted by the SDF and Asayish (NES’ Internal Security Forces) in 2023, slightly down from 185 in 2022. 76 of these raids involved Coalition forces, mainly providing intelligence and air support.

These raids resulted in the arrest of 351 ISIS suspects - a large drop from 2022’s 1,230. RIC recorded a massive downtrend in overt ISIS violence in Hol camp this year, with no killings reported at all, which could be attributed to the persistent security operations conducted by Asayish and SDF within the camp.

However, in the past, such security operations have uncovered ditches within the camp used for hiding bodies. Therefore, it could be that violence in the camp has not decreased but has merely been reported less. Testimonies from camp residents still paint a picture of a highly insecure environment, with non-fatal attacks widespread. Additionally, ISIS organizational activities in the camp continue, largely through women in the organization whose husbands have been killed or imprisoned.

Turkish attacks

Turkish airstrikes - targeting critical infrastructure such as water, electricity, oil and gas facilities - have also threatened the counter-ISIS efforts in NES. As described by CJTF-OIR, Turkish bombardment has forced the SDF “to split its attention between two possibly existential threats”. When Türkiye escalates its airstrikes, the SDF has paused both anti-ISIS raids and training courses for SDF prison guards.