Syria: Several IS leaders killed by US army, Washington says
US forces have killed several leaders of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Syria in a helicopter operation and an airstrike in the past 24 hours, the US command said on Thursday. The US military command for the Middle East (Centcom) wrote in a first press release that the helicopter operation against Rakan Wahid al-Shamri was carried out overnight in northeastern Syria from Wednesday to Thursday. According to consistent sources, it took place in a Syrian regime auxiliaries-held enclave near the city of Qamichli, which is controlled by Kurdish forces allied with American troops.
Hundreds of US soldiers deployed
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), this is the first time since the war in Syria began in 2011 that US forces have conducted a helicopter operation in an area controlled by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Hundreds of US troops are stationed in northeastern Syria as part of a US-led anti-jihadi coalition that continues to fight with its Kurdish allies from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the sleeper cells of ISIS.
The American command then stated in a second press release that they had killed two leaders of the jihadist group in an airstrike in northern Syria, without giving the exact location. This second attack, according to Centcom, made it possible to kill “both Abu Hashum al-Umawi (…) and another senior IS official” without hitting any civilians.
Weakening ISIS’s ability to destabilize the region
“This strike will weaken ISIS’s ability to destabilize the region and attack our forces and our partners,” commented US commander in the region, General Michael Kurilla. “On Wednesday night, US forces carried out a helicopter attack near Qamichli, targeting Rakan Wahid al-Shamri, an IS official known for facilitating arms smuggling and clandestine transport of militants,” it said of Centcom’s initial statement.
“The person concerned was killed and one of their companions injured. Two other companions were arrested,” Centcom added, without specifying the nationality of the dead officer. No US soldiers or civilians were killed or injured in the operation. In Damascus, Syrian state television reported on a helicopter operation by the “US occupation forces” in which one person was killed. She did not give any further details.
A little-known member of the organization
“Three American helicopters with troops have landed near the village of Moulouk Saray,” a local resident told AFP. The American soldiers “called on residents over loudspeakers to stay at home” before searching a house. They “killed one person and kidnapped two,” he added.
According to him, the dead man was a displaced person from the Syrian province of Hassaké, who was little known to the residents and called himself Abu Hayel. The villager claimed that the US soldiers engaged in a firefight against a proxy force of the Syrian regime. The OSDH confirmed the death of Rakan Wahid al-Shamri.
Still a lot of attacks
After a meteoric rise in power in Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014 and the seizure of vast territories, ISIS saw its self-proclaimed “caliphate” crumble under the blow of successive offensives. He was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria in 2019. But the extremist group responsible for several attacks continues to carry out sleeper cell attacks in both countries.
The United States continues to target IS leaders. In July, they killed a senior IS official in a drone strike in north-west Syria. In June, they arrested an IS leader during a helicopter operation in northern Syria.
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a US raid in 2019, and his successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurachi, was killed in February 2022 in a US special forces operation in northwestern Syria, a largely controlled region by the jihadists. The complex war in Syria, a fragmented country in which various actors are intervening, has claimed the lives of around 500,000 people since 2011.
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