Infograph issued by the ISIS-affiliated Mu'ta News Agency about the combined ISIS attack at the military airfield in Deir al-Zor (Twitter account of syrien0 سليمان السوري@, November 17, 2017).
- On November 13, 2017, ISIS carried out a well-planned, daring combined suicide attack at the military airfield in Deir al-Zor. There were between five and eight suicide bombers, who came from the desert region of Abu Kamal and entered the airfield dressed in Russian army uniforms. They exchanged fire with the Syrian soldiers in the airfield, and when they ran out of ammunition they detonated their explosive vests. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. The Syrian forces in the airfield suffered heavy losses (apparently 13 soldiers were killed). According to some of the reports ISIS operatives also destroyed five aircraft (planes and helicopters).
- On November 13, 2017, ISIS carried out a combined suicide bombing attack at the military airfield of Deir al-Zor. According to Syrian and Arab media, five ISIS operatives of Chechen origin carried out the attack, coming from the desert region around Abu Kamal. One of them detonated a car bomb at the entrance to the airfield. Then four operatives wearing Russian uniforms entered. They got out of their vehicle and opened fire on the Syrian soldiers. They also fired RPGs at aircraft. ISIS operatives were killed in the exchange of fire. Three planes and several armored vehicles were destroyed (Khutwa, November 13, and the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, Murasiloun, Enab Baladi and al-Arabiya, November 14 2017).
- When the ISIS operatives entered the airfield, according to the Syrian media and al-Arabiya, they wore Russian army uniforms and some of them spoke Russian. According to the al-Arabiya report, they were driving an armored Syrian army vehicle. When the ISIS operatives came to the airfield’s gate they claimed they were Russian soldiers who had come to examine the airfield, saying they wanted to meet with the airfield’s Syrian commander.
- ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in an announcement in its weekly newsletter al-Nabā’ a few days later (November 16, 2017). The ISIS claim of responsibility differed from the reports in the Syrian media. According to ISIS, there were eight operatives (not five). One of them (judging by his name) was Russian, but according to the names of the others most of them were Syrian. According to the ISIS statement, they arrived at the airfield driving the car bomb. The suicide bomber, aka Abu Yahya the Damascene, detonated the vehicle near Syrian soldiers at the entrance after the seven ISIS operatives had exited the vehicle and entered the airfield. The operatives exchanged fire with the Syrian soldiers until they ran out of ammunition. Then, according to al-Nabā’, they blew up their explosive vests in a concentration of Syrian soldiers.
- Regarding the number of Syrians and Russians killed in the attack, the versions differ substantially: the Murasiloun website, affiliated the Syrian regime, claimed two were killed and several wounded. According to the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, 13 Syrian soldiers were killed (in ITIC assessment it is the most reliable version). According to ISIS’s claim, which seems exaggerated, 58 Syrian soldiers and five Russian experts were killed. ISIS’s announcement also notes that three fighter planes, two helicopters and an ammunition depot were destroyed; according to the Murasiloun website three planes were destroyed.
Infograph issued by the ISIS-affiliated Mu’ta News Agency about the combined ISIS attack at the military airfield in Deir al-Zor (Twitter account of syrien0 سليمان السوري@, November 17, 2017).
Responses from the Syrian Regime and Russia
- The Syrian regime and the Russian government made no formal announcements about the event. In ITIC assessment that was because they wanted to avoid embarrassment at a time when the media were focused on the campaign for the conquest of Abu Kamal and the completion of the collapse of the Islamic State in Syria.
- The online Russian newspaper Lenta.ru, basing its information on the Telegram Channel Directorate 4 (which monitors the activities of terrorist organizations), reported the event. According to the report, terrorist operatives attacked the airfield in Deir al-Zor. There are several versions of the event. According to one, an ISIS operative succeeded in entering the airfield and blew himself near a group of Syrian soldiers. According to another, several Russian-speaking operatives, apparently Chechens, infiltrated the airfield, represented themselves as Russian soldiers, set fire to planes and then attacked Syrian soldiers. According to Lenta.ru, there are reports of one individual killed and several wounded, but it is unknown which side incurred the casualties (Lenta.ru, November 13, 2017).
 For further information see the November 2017 bulletin, "The Collapse of the Islamic State: What Comes Next?" (Overview; full version currently in translation). ↑
 The delay in issuing the announcement may also indicate difficulties in transmitting the relevant information to the group that dispatched the operatives to the attack, but may also indicate a blow to ISIS's propaganda machine. After the vehicular attack in New York (October 31, 2017), ISIS also issued a delayed claim of responsibility in its weekly newsletter al-Nabā' on November 2, 2017, despite the attack's great propaganda value. ↑
 Lenta.ru is a popular private online Russian newspaper based in Moscow. Its website gets more than 600,000 hits a day. ↑