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US military announces killing of several Islamic State leaders in Syria

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US forces killed several leaders of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Syria during a helicopter operation and an airstrike, the US command said on Thursday (October 6th).

The helicopter operation was carried out overnight from Wednesday to Thursday in northeastern Syria, the US military command for the Middle East wrote (Centcom). in a first release.

“On Wednesday evening, US forces carried out a helicopter raid near Qamichli, targeting Rakan Wahid Al-Shamri, an IS official known to facilitate the smuggling of weapons and the clandestine transport of fighters”Centcom said. “The targeted individual was killed and one of his companions injured. Two other companions were captured”, added Centcom, without specifying the nationality of the dead official. No American soldiers and no civilians were killed or injured in the operation, according to the same source.

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This attack took place in an enclave held by auxiliary forces of the Syrian regime, near the town of Qamichli controlled by Kurdish forces allied with American troops, according to concordant sources.

Exchange of fire

This is the first time since the start of the war in Syria in 2011 that US troops have carried out a helicopter operation in an area under the control of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (OSDH). Hundreds of US troops are deployed in northeastern Syria as part of a Washington-led anti-jihadist coalition, which continues to fight, along with its Kurdish allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), sleeper cells of the IS.

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In Damascus, Syrian state television reported a helicopter operation by “American occupying forces” in which a person was killed. She gave no further details.

“Three US helicopters carrying troops have landed” near the village of Moulouk Saray, described a local resident to Agence France-Presse (AFP). The American military “called, with loudspeakers, the inhabitants to stay at home”, before searching a house. They have there “killed one person and kidnapped two”he added on condition of anonymity.

According to him, the person killed was a displaced person from the Syrian province of Hassaké, little known to the inhabitants and who called himself Abu Hayel. The villager claimed that a firefight pitted the US soldiers against a Syrian regime proxy force. The OSDH reported on its side of two people captured, who would be an Iraqi and a Syrian.

No civilians affected

The US command then said, in a second statement, killing two other leaders of the jihadist group in an airstrike in northern Syria. This second attack would have, according to Centcom, made it possible to kill “both Abu-Hashum Al-Umawi (…) and another senior IS figure”without affecting civilians. “This strike will weaken the ability of IS to destabilize the region and strike our forces and our partners”commented the boss of the American command in the region, General Michael Kurilla.

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After a meteoric rise in power in 2014 in Iraq and neighboring Syria and the conquest of vast territories, IS has seen its “caliphate” self-proclaimed collapse under the blow of successive offensives. He was defeated in 2017 in Iraq and in 2019 in Syria. But the Sunni extremist group responsible for multiple abuses continues to carry out attacks through sleeper cells in both countries.

The United States continues to target IS leaders. In July, they announced that they had killed a senior IS official in a drone strike in northwestern Syria. In June, they reported the capture of an IS leader in 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 the northwestern Syria, a region largely controlled by jihadists.

The complex war in Syria, a fragmented country where different protagonists intervene, has claimed around 500,000 lives since 2011.

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The World with AFP