Daesh attack kills 23 Syrian soldiers

BEIRUT (AFP): At least 23 soldiers have been killed in Syria’s war-torn east, a monitor said on Friday, the deadliest in a new wave of attacks blamed on Daesh group jihadists.
Despite losing their last piece of territory in Syria in 2019, Daesh has maintained hideouts in the vast Syrian desert from which it has carried out ambushes and hit-and-run attacks.
Daesh “members targeted a military bus” in Deir Ezzor province on Thursday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as remnants of the jihadist group escalate their attacks.
The latest attack killed “23 soldiers and wounded more than 10 others,” some of whom in critical condition, said the Britain-based group which relies on a wide network of sources inside Syria.
The Observatory said “dozens of (other) soldiers” were missing after the attack in which the jihadists surrounded the bus and opened fire.
Syrian state media has yet to report on the attack.
The Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman said Daesh “has recently been escalating its deadly military attacks… aiming to cause as many deaths as possible.”
By doing so, the jihadists are trying to send “a message aimed at showing the group is still active and powerful despite the targeting of its leaders,” he told AFP.
Last week, Daesh announced the death of its leader Abu Al-Hussein Al-Husseini Al-Qurashi, who it said was killed in clashes in northwestern Syria.
A spokesman for the group announced a new leader, known as Abu Hafs Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi, in a recorded message on its channels on the Telegram messaging app.
In March 2019, Daesh lost the last territory it held in Syria to a Kurdish-led counteroffensive backed by a US-led coalition, but jihadist remnants continue to carry out deadly attacks.
Targets have included civilians and Kurdish-led fighters as well as government troops and allied pro-Iranian fighters.
Daesh members in recent weeks have increased their attacks in Syria’s north and northeast.
Thursday’s attack was the third carried out by the jihadists this month alone.
Earlier this week, 10 Syrian soldiers and pro-government fighters were killed in a Daesh attack in the former jihadist stronghold of Raqqa province, the Observatory said.
Last week, the jihadists attacked a convoy of oil tankers guarded by the army in the Syrian desert, killing seven people including two civilians.
And last month, Daesh claimed responsibility for a rare bombing in Damascus that killed at least six people near the capital’s Sayyida Zeinab mausoleum, Syria’s most visited Shiite pilgrimage site.
The Sunni Muslim extremist group’s brutal rule was marked by beheadings and mass shootings.
Daesh has had five leaders since it lost the last remnant of the once sprawling “caliphate” it proclaimed across large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014.
Four of them were killed, including the group’s first “caliph,” Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who died in a US raid in October 2019.
Civil war first broke out in Syria after President Bashar Assad’s government crushed peaceful protests in 2011. It has since drawn in foreign powers and global jihadists.
The conflict has killed nearly half a million people and driven half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes, with many seeking refuge in neighboring Turkiye.