Isil claims first major attack since 'caliphate' defeated

Islamic State has claimed its first major attack since its "caliphate" was defeated at the weekend, after gunning down seven Western-backed fighters at a checkpoint in northern Syria.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) militants opened fire on Syrian Democratic Forces fighters manning a checkpoint at the entrance to the city of Manbij, in what an SDF official called a “revenge attack”.
Isil claimed responsibility for the shooting, which occurred just after midnight on Tuesday morning, on their official news channel.
After a months-long battle further south in the village of Baghuz, SDF declared victory over the jihadists on Saturday.
A member of the security forces at the scene of a suicide attack in the northern Syrian town of ManbijCredit: AFP 
But Tuesday's attack - the deadliest off the battlefield since a January bombing at a restaurant in the centre of Manbij killed 19 locals and four Americans - showed the group was far from being completely defeated.
The SDF and local officials have repeatedly warned that Isil is able still launch deadly insurgent strikes and has asked for greater support from the international community.
According to Shervan Darwish, spokesman for the SDF-affiliated Manbij Military Council, fighting Isil sleeper cells might be even more difficult than beating the group militarily.
"After the victory over Isil, we have entered the phase of sleeper cells," Mr Darwish said. "These sleeper cells are being activated and carrying out attacks but we will foil their operations."
In an audio message released days before the fall of Baghuz, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, Isil’s spokesman, urged supporters to seek revenge on SDF fighters in areas under its control.
Maj Gen. Chris Ghika, Britain's top commander against Isil, said that the group continued to pose a threat.
An SDF fighter looks over seized Isil weapons that were found in the last stronghold of the extremist group as they were displayed at an SDF base  Credit: Getty 
"We are unsure of the exact number [of existing Isil extremists] but we think it is some thousands,” he said, echoing US intelligence estimates of around 10,000-20,000. “Those thousands are probably split into some fighters and activists, and others are supporting members of Daesh."  
"They have adapted and are trying to morph into an underground movement. They are seeking to conduct targeted attacks with the aim of destabilising Iraq and Syria,” he told reporters.
"One can defeat a military force but defeating the narrative is more difficult. We need to have regional voices engage in this so that we can bring out into the open and lay bare the emptiness and the evil of Daesh’s narrative, which will go some way to countering those tens of thousands of supporters and convincing them that they are pursuing and supporting an empty group."


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