BEIRUT (AP) — The U.S.-backed Syrian forces battling the Islamic State group in eastern Syria say they have launched a campaign to clear a restive Arab village of militant sleeper cells.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces says the campaign launched Wednesday targeted insurgent hideouts in the desert area around Shheil village, arresting 20, and discovering at least two tunnels, ammunition and weapons.
The village was one of a number that rose up in protest against the SDF's hold on power in eastern Syria's Arab-dominated Deir el-Zour province. The first fatality in the protests was also in Shheil, threatening to deepen tensions that have challenged the U.S. and its local partners.
Since seizing IS's last territory in March, the SDF has been fighting expansive sleeper cells amid rising Arab discontent at Kurdish control.