Though the Syrian government reasserted official control over the entire southern region last summer, there have been multiple problems regarding security and stability. There are regular reports of incidents like assassinations, attempted killings and planting of IEDs. In the north Deraa town of al-Sanamayn, which actually officially came fully under government control in a 'reconciliation' agreement well before the wider southern region, insurgent cells are continuing to cause problems.
To learn more about the security problems and current situation in al-Sanamayn, I conducted an interview on 3 August 2019 with a media guy for the auxiliary contingents of the al-Amn al-Askari (The Military Intelligence) that operate in the area. The interview is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: Can you tell me a little about the al-Amn al-Askari contingents in al-Sanamayn?
A: The groups were formed at the beginning of this year. They were formed solely to protect the town from any danger threatening the interest of the town and its people. At that time there was no direct appearance for the terrorist cells. And after some time passed, one of the previous Free Army commanders was assassinated, after he concluded a truce, reconciled and regularized his status. Matters were somewhat unintelligible at the time. Who was the killer? Why was the slain person killed? But not long after, information came for the interest of the relevant security authorities regarding the formation of terrorist contingents in the town of al-Sanamayn at the hands of the terrorist Waleed Khalid Qasim: Abu Khalid, known as Waleed al-Zahra. And a raid operation was carried out against him, but he had recourse to fleeing, and after their presence was uncovered, they [Waleed al-Zahra's men] took up bases and places for their presence from the northwestern neighbourhoods.
Q: Regarding the al-Amn al-Askari contingents: most of the personnel were Free Army previously?
A: Not most of them, bu rather some of them. But there were of those innocent of killing and terrorist actions. They took up arms and followed the path of the armed contingents only to protect their clan and neighbourhood.
Q: Currently what is the security situation exactly?
A: The security situation is not stable. They have attacked the al-Sanamayn area directorate, and the al-Amn al-Askari department. And they have carried out numerous assassination operations and attempts, among them Abu Karim al-Nasar (Samar al-Nasar), Abu Abdullah al-Jum'a (Hussein al-Jum'a) and Mahmoud al-Rashid. And through their reckless gunfire, two children from the Abu Hawiya family have died. Another assassination attempt failed, but through it Ammar al-Falah and Razaq al-Khateeb were harmed. And in a subsequent attempt to assassinate Mubarak al-Dhiyab, the attempt was limited to wounding him only.
Q: All of these attacks and assassinations: behind them are the cells of Waleed al-Zahra?
A: Yes, all of these operations were done by them.
Q: Where is he now? In the northwest neighbourhoods of the town?
A: Exactly. He has not departed the town since he entered it when the regularizations happened.
Q: So currently what are the measures taken up by the security forces regarding the northwestern neighbourhoods?
A: Mobilization and high and constant readiness on the part of the al-Amn al-Askari contingents and all the checkpoints and military points to resist any attack by the terrorist contingents.
Q: Have the northwestern neighourhoods been surrounded?
A: No, those neighbourhoods have not been besieged.
Q: There was talk about besieging the northwestern neighbourhoods.
A: No no. Not besieging the neighbourhoods. The town has been entirely surrounded, to observe if there is any entry and exit through non-regular routes. Smuggling I mean: as the terrorists bring in and smuggle weapons and other terrorists. Note that a large number of the Dawa'esh [Islamic State guys] have been drawn from outside al-Sanamayn to al-Sanamayn. Therefore the town has been surrounded.
Q: But this surrounding does not mean siege?
A: No, no. There is no siege. Only surrounding.
Q: What is the number of martyrs from the operations of Waleed al-Zahra's cells until now?
Q: In addition to the al-Amn al-Askari contingents are there any other auxiliary forces responsible for security in al-Sanamayn? Or only contingents of the al-Amn al-Askari?
A: We are considered auxiliary forces for the checkpoints and military points in al-Sanamayn. No, there are no [other auxiliary forces].
Q: Is there any plan to assault the northwestern neighbourhoods?
A: Regarding assault I have no information. [We are] only in a state of defending against their attacks. And once they planted IEDs on the general road in al-Sanamayn. Therefore alertness and caution have been raised for all the relevant parties.
Q: And to clarify the al-Amn al-Askari contingents are still present in checkpoints inside the town?
A: No they don't have checkpoints. In the town there is a checkpoint in the market, as well as a checkpoint at the Qita intersection. And they belong to the army. As for the contingents, they have no checkpoints.