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Syrian Kurdish forces raid restive Arab town in east

In this March 28, 2018 photo, a Kurdish policeman checks an Arab Syrian man at a checkpoint controlled by The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF, on a highway in Hassakeh province, Syria. SDF defeated IS in March but the Kurdish-led force is now facing protests by local Arab tribesmen in Deir el-Zour province. If the protests turn to an all-out uprising against the SDF it could be a blow to Washington as President Trump has plans to reduce America's military presence in Syria. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT — 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.

The Associated Press