Turkish intelligence agency MIT had mapped out all the villages and towns that were under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in northwestern of Syria, classified documents show.
According to a report dated June 2016, Turkish intelligence had detailed information about the ISIS presence in villages and towns and profiled the local residents in terms of ethnicity. Most information was derived from MIT’s own intelligence gathering, but some was also provided by the Turkish Special Forces Command as well as the US military.
Most towns and villages that were under ISIS control were populated by either Turkmens, ethnic Turks in Syria who have been supported by Turkey for decades, or Arabs, or a mixture of both. For example, in the the northwestern town of Ahtarin, where Turkmens made up 20 percent of the majority Arab population, ISIS kept heavy arms and armored vehicles in a grain warehouse, the intelligence note stated.
The Syrian city of al-Bab, with a population of more than 100,000, was described as ISIS’s most important center after Raqqah and Manbij. The city was controlled by ISIS groups of Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan nationals and home to some 450 ISIS family members. ISIS kept major ammunition depots in caves located to the east of the city and rerouted supplies to the frontlines from there.
The town of Ar-Rai (Çobanbey) was the second most important center for ISIS after al-Bab. The town functioned as a collection and re-deployment place for foreign fighters who came to Syria to join ISIS. The smuggling route along the Syrian town of al-Rai and the Turkish village of Elbeyli in particular concentrated on Turkish villages known as Ali Mantar and Cangalli. The area surrounding Ar-Rai was planted with mines, the intelligence note stated.
The Turkmen village of Ayyasa, near the Turkish border, was nearly deserted with the exception of a few elderly civilians. Yet ISIS militants took a mosque as shelter, set up three outposts and were involved in intensive smuggling activities from that village.
The Arab town of Ihtimalat was described as a hotbed of ISIS recruitment activity with strong local support. ISIS’s Rai emir, Bassam Dibo al-Kamal, ISIS prison warden Abdullah Dibo al-Kamal and ISIS General Emir for Syria’s North Abdelkarim Hilal (aka Abu Shah) are all from Ihtimalat village. ISIS deployed tanks to the west of the village and placed a vehicle loaded with explosives at the southwest entrance across from a school.
Dabiq, located some 10 kilometers south of Syria’s border with Turkey, was listed as ISIS territory with 6,500 Turkmen and Arab residents. It was considered an important place for ISIS. A notation next to the Dabiq entry stated that ISIS leader Abu Bakar al-Bagdadi was brought there when he was wounded in early 2015.
Manbij, with a population of 200,000, hosted 1,000 ISIS terrorists and served as a hub for the collection and distribution of ISIS fighters as well.
The Turkmen village of Delha near the Turkish border was under ISIS control, and buildings were equipped with 12.7 mm heavy machine guns with a range of two kilometers. Another Turkmen village, Molla Yakup, with 500 residents, harbored ISIS suicide bombers. The Turkmen town of Rail (Mregel) with a population of 2,000 served as a triage staging point for wounded ISIS fighters.
The village of an-Nahda (Kalkim), located some five kilometers from the Turkish border with a population of 2,000 Turkmens, was listed as ISIS territory. In the village of Hazal Mazrah, ISIS used the civilian population as a shield against US-led coalition airstrikes.
The following villages and towns were listed as being under ISIS control:
Dudyen, al-Amiriya, al-Athariyah, el-Bul, al-Mayadin, el-Vaniye, Ersaf, Esrafiye, Faydiyah el-Fayrizuyah, Guz, Haciveli, Halfeti, Halisa, Harbas, Harcele, Kafr Sus, Muraygil, Kandurah, Kara Köpru, Kara Kuz, Kara Mezra, Keklice, el-Ayn el-Vira, Kunaytirah, KIssak Cik, Livanah, Molla Yakup, Naddah, el-Vardah, Rasm al-Ward, Silsilah, Soran al-Bab, Surah, Shadir Sidar, Shandi, Suvayrin, Tali Atiyah, Tall Asah, Tall Battal, Tall el-Hisn, Tel Malid, Telalyn, Tell Ahmar, Tuba Cik, Tokli, Turkman Barih, Tuvayran, Um al-Qura, Umm Hosh, Vahsiyye, Vuquf, Yahmul, Yani Yaban, Yildizlar and Zorhar.