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Roadside bomb kills one, injures four in Manbij, Syria

A roadside bomb struck a minibus carrying teachers in Manbij killing one person on Saturday, the latest in a spate of attacks in the northern Syrian city since mid-January.

The device exploded as the minibus passed, killing the driver and wounding at least four teachers who were in the vehicle, ANHA reported.

“Terrorist bombing through an explosive device targeting the teachers’ car in Manbaj. Again, terrorism targets the future of children,” Sherwan Dervish, spokesperson for Manbij Military Council, said on Twitter.

On January 16, four Americans were among 19 people killed in a suicide attack in Manbij claimed by ISIS. Coalition forces had previously been attacked in the city in March 2018, when one U.S. Army special operator and one British special forces member were killed in an IED explosion in Manbii. Five other Coalition personnel were injured in that attack.

Manbij was captured from Islamic State on August 12, 2016 by the U.S.-backed multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces after a 75-day battle, later named “Operation Martyr and Commander Faysal Abu Layla” after the SDF commander.

Fighters from the mainly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) made up the bulk of those deployed in the operation, and the YPG said it handed its points of control west of the Euphrates river to the SDF-affiliated Manbij Military Council, which has been in control of the town since.

Manbij remains a major point of contention between the SDF-controlled de facto autonomous state in northeastern Syria, and neighbouring Turkey.

U.S. and Turkish military personnel have been conducting joint patrols outside Manbij since November, and Russian military police acting in support of the Syrian military began patrols in the area on January 8.

The attacks follow U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement in December that he would withdraw American troops from Syria, as he declared ISIS had been defeated. The U.S. began its drawdown from Syria on January 11.

In December, Turkey again threatened to launch a new offensive against the YPG. Turkey considers the YPG inextricable from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies. The YPG is not a proscribed organization in the European Union, United Kingdom or United States.

Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to the establishment of a buffer zone in northern Syira during a phone call on January 14. The U.S. is seeking to use the buffer zone to protect the SDF and ensure Turkish security.

With support from a U.S.-led military Coalition, the SDF is in the final stages of an assault against the last ISIS redoubt east of the Euphrates.

In a recent interview with AFP, the top commander of the SDF said that the battle was winding up but that his forces would need about a month to assert full control over the area.

General Mazloum Kobane said the the battle had been complicated as ISIS shifted its strategy after the SDF ousted the jihadists from their de-facto Syrian capital of Raqqa in 2017.

New tactics include “sleeper cells everywhere, secretly recruiting people again, and carrying out suicide operations, bombings, and assassinations,” he said.

“We expect there will be an increase in the intensity of ISIS operations against our forces after the end of their military presence.”

ISIS has retained a presence in Syria’s vast Badia desert and has claimed a series of attacks in SDF-held territory.

With reporting from AFP

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