In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian security officers gather around a burned bus at the site of a deadly explosion, in Damascus, Syria, 20 October, 2021 (Photo credit: Voa News)
ISIS sleeper cells operating in Syria’s desert regions have been known to launch hit and run attacks against the Syrian army
Eleven Syrian Arab Army (SAA) soldiers and two civilians were killed on 20 June in an ambush on a military bus in the northern city of Raqqa, injuring three other soldiers, the Syrian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
“At about 6:30 this morning, a civilian bus was subjected to a terrorist attack on the Raqqa-Homs highway in the Al-Jira area, which led to the martyrdom of eleven army personnel and two civilians and the injury of three other army personnel,” the statement said.
The attack took place in the northern Raqqa countryside, which is under the control of the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militias.
As of yet, no group has taken responsibility for the attack, however, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that the attack was carried out by ISIS sleeper cells who are known to launch hit and run attacks across Syria’s desert regions.
Extremist groups have carried out similar attacks against the SAA in recent months, the last of which occurred on 13 May in Aleppo, when at least 10 Syrian soldiers were killed in a missile attack on the bus they were traveling in.
Two months prior, at least 15 SAA troops were killed when their military bus was targeted by militants in the city of Palmyra in the Homs governorate.
Although ISIS has lost the vast majority of territory it previously occupied in Syria, the extremist group still operates in small pockets across the country’s desert regions.
According to reports from April, US forces stationed in the illegal Al-Tanf base in southern Syria near the Iraqi border are reportedly providing logistical and military support to ISIS militants in the region, taking advantage of the dirt roads that connect the Raqqa and Hama deserts.
Sources stated at the time that the militants were being prepared for transfer from areas surrounding Deir Ezzor to the Damascus region in order to attack Syrian army positions as well as civilian targets.