Iraq News

US drone strike kills 17 extremists in north-west Syria



Syrian demonstrators protest against the Syrian government and against the Syrian-Russian military campaign in the country, on October 23rd in the opposition-held city of Idlib in north-western Syria. [Omar Haj Kadour/AFP]

The US army carried out a drone strike against al-Qaeda leaders in north-western Syria near the Turkish border on Thursday (October 22nd), killing 17 extremists.

"US Forces conducted a strike against a group of al-Qaeda in Syria (AQ-S) senior leaders meeting near Idlib, Syria," said Maj. Beth Riordan, the spokeswoman for US Central Command (CENTCOM).

"The removal of these AQ-S leaders will disrupt the terrorist organisation's ability to further plot and carry out global attacks threatening US citizens, our partners and innocent civilians," Riordan said in a statement.

She did not specify the number of deaths from the strike.

But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the operation, which targeted a dinner meeting of extremists in the village of Jakara in the Salqin area, killed at least 17 extremists including 11 leaders.

The Observatory said five civilians were also among those killed.

The village lies in Syria's last major opposition bastion of Idlib, which is dominated by Tahrir al-Sham, led by a former al-Qaeda affiliate, and its opposition allies.

But other extremist groups, including the rival al-Qaeda-linked Hurras al-Deen faction, are also present in the area.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said that five non-Syrian extremists were among those killed, but their nationalities were not immediately known.

"They had been invited to dinner in a tent on a farm in Jakara," he said.

"It was a meeting of leaders opposed to Tahrir al-Sham and who reject the Russia-Turkish deals" that led to a fragile truce in Idlib, he said. "Some were close to Hurras al-Deen."

A March agreement between opposition backer Ankara and government ally Moscow halted a deadly offensive by government forces against the region of some three million people.

A US-led coalition is present in the east of the country, where its airstrikes have backed Kurdish-led forces battling "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants.

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