Anti-Terror Units

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Anti-Terror Units
Kurdish: Yekîneyên Antî Teror
YAT emblem.png
Country Democratic Federation of Northern Syria
Branch People's Protection Units (YPG)
Women's Protection Units (YPJ)
TypeSpecial forces
Direct action
High-value targets
Intelligence operations
Mobility operations
Unconventional warfare
EngagementsSyrian Civil War
Ali Boutan (nom de guerre: Haji Kurkhan) [3][6]

The Anti-Terror Units (Kurdish: Yekîneyên Antî Teror, short: YAT, Arabic: وحدات مكافحة الإرهاب) are the special forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces, consisting of the best trained and equipped members of the People's Protection Units (YPG) and Women's Protection Units (YPJ). They were led by the Syrian Kurdish commander Ali Boutan until his death. YAT is trained by United States special operations forces and the CIA.[3]


YAT fighters with the unit's flag in late 2015.

Formed as the YPG's special forces in late 2014, the unit was organized to seek and destroy Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) sleeper cells in Rojava and to conduct operations behind enemy lines.[7] At first, the unit "existed in name only", as it consisted of "fierce fighters but only just that".[3] This changed under the leadership of Ali Boutan who reformed YAT and began to put its members through training courses that were intended to emulate those of US and British special forces, while providing them with the best equipment the YPG/YPJ could afford. As cooperation between the YPG and the United States increased, YAT was further trained by US special forces and the CIA in designated compounds in Rojava and Jordan, while some YAT commanders were sent to Fort Bragg and Fort Campbell for in-depth training.[3]

Since its formation, YAT has carried out raids against ISIL targets,[8] arrested ISIL sleeper cells,[9] and stopped ISIL terrorist attacks.[10][11] In September 2016, YAT captured two Sultan Murad Division fighters who had previously been filmed torturing YPG fighters in Jarabulus.[2]

In November 2016,[6] Boutan was the target of an improvised explosive device (IED) in Qamishli, which exploded as his car passed by. Even though an American SOF medic attempted to save his life, he died of his wounds shortly after. The attack was believed to have been carried out by the Turkish National Intelligence Organization.[3] The Turkish pro-government Anadolu Agency claimed that Boutan had been responsible for sending Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters into Turkey in order to conduct "terror operations".[6]

In April 2017, YAT aided US special forces in capturing parts of the Tabqa Dam from ISIL.[3] During the battle, YAT commandos were equipped with US-supplied combat helmets, AN/PVS-7 night vision devices, flashlights, and were armed with M4 carbines equipped with AN/PEQ-2 laser sights, holographic weapon sights, and STANAG magazines.[12]

On 21 June 2017, YAT captured five ISIL sleeper agents who were preparing a terrorist attack in Manbij.[13] In January 2018, the Anti-Terror Units killed the mastermind of the July 2016 Qamishli bombings, Hisen Ayid el-Bilebil Ebu el-Walid, during operations in Deir ez-Zor Governorate.[4] In the same month, they also captured around twenty foreign members of ISIL as they attempted to flee from Syria to Turkey. One of those arrested was Thomas Barnouin, a French jihadist who is considered to be one of the planners of the 2012 Toulouse attack and the November 2015 Paris attacks.[14]

YAT was involved in resisting Operation Olive Branch in early 2018, with some of its members reportedly killed by the Turkish Armed Forces.[15]

On 1 September 2019, YAT captured Mohammed Remedan Eyd al-Talah, ISIL's chief financial officer, during a raid in ash-Shahil, Deir ez-Zor Governorate.[5]



  1. ^ Atlamazoglou, Stavros (October 12, 2019). "Turkey attacks compound of elite US-led Kurdish counterterrorism unit". SOFREP. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Syrian rebels captured by YPG confess to torturing Kurdish fighters". Rudaw Media Network. 1 September 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g John Sjoholm (23 March 2017). "VICTORY – Mission Tabqa Dam Complete, joint US SpecOps retake vital dam from ISIS". Lima Charlie. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Mastermind of 2016 ISIS attack on Qamishli killed in special op: YPG". Rudaw Media Network. 1 January 2018. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  5. ^ a b Wladimir van Wilgenburg (2 September 2019). "US-backed forces in Syria capture top ISIS financial officer". Kurdistan24. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Albin Szakola (10 November 2016). "A top Kurdish commander has been assassinated near the Turkish border". NOW. Business Insider. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  7. ^ "Kurds Establish Anti Terror Units in Rojava". Kurdish Daily News. 28 March 2014. Archived from the original on 25 October 2017. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  8. ^ "YPG's Anti-Terror Unit kills two ISIS gangs". Hawar News Agency. 19 January 2016. Archived from the original on 2017-04-19. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  9. ^ "12 ISIS gangs arrested by YPG's Anti-Terror Units". Hawar News Agency. 15 October 2016. Archived from the original on 2017-04-19. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  10. ^ "YPG's Anti-Terror Units (YAT) seized many bomb-laden cars". Hawar News Agency. 2 May 2016. Archived from the original on 2017-04-19. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  11. ^ "Anti Terror Units Carried Out A Special Operation". People's Protection Units. 3 November 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  12. ^ Shawn Snow (7 May 2017). "Syrian Kurds are now armed with sensitive US weaponry, and the Pentagon denies supplying it". Military Times.
  13. ^ "YAT captures ISIS members planning a massacre in Manbij". ANF News. 23 June 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  14. ^ "French jihadi Thomas Barnouin: "I was trying to go to Turkey"". YPG. 10 January 2018. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  15. ^ "Afrin'de öldürülen teröristin kıyafetindeki peç detayı" [Details about the terrorists killed in Afrin]. Akşam (in Turkish). 30 January 2018. Retrieved 12 February 2018.