Iraq News

US keeps pressure on ISIS with latest targeting of group's leaders in Syria

By Diyaruna and AFP

US soldiers patrol in a rural area east of Qamishli in Syria's northeastern al-Hasakeh province on August 21. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

US soldiers patrol in a rural area east of Qamishli in Syria's northeastern al-Hasakeh province on August 21. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

Two recent raids that took out three senior "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) leaders in Syria and wounded an associate show the United States is serious about keeping up pressure on the extremist group, officials say.

On Thursday evening (October 6), "US forces conducted a successful airstrike in northern Syria, killing both Abu-Hashum al-Umawi, a deputy Wali of Syria, and another senior ISIS official associated with him", US Central Command said.

"This strike will degrade ISIS' ability to destabilise the region and strike at our forces and partners," said CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla.

"Our forces remain in the region to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS," he said.

Hours earlier, US forces conducted a pre-dawn helicopter raid in northeastern Syria's al-Hasakeh province, near Qamishli, targeting an ISIS official known to facilitate the smuggling of weapons and fighters to support ISIS operations.

"During the operation, the targeted individual was killed and one of his associates was wounded," CENTCOM said in a statement, naming him as Rakkan Wahid al-Shammari.

US forces detained two additional associates.

The raid, involving "multiple helicopters", per Syrian state media, focused on the village of Muluk Saray, around 17 km south of Qamishli, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The person killed "had been a resident of the area for years", the Observatory said, reporting that a Syrian and an Iraqi had been captured in the operation.

A resident of the village, speaking on condition of anonymity, said three US helicopters carrying troops had landed in the operation and raided a house, killing one person and taking others captive.

"They used loudspeakers to call on residents to stay indoors" during the operation, the resident said.

In a separate incident on Monday (October 10), a drone strike in the northern Syria border town of Tal Abyad killed a suspected member of ISIS as he rode a motorbike, the Observatory said.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

A local resident identified the dead man as Ammar al-Yehya Ibn Ali, a 35-year-old Syrian who was known to have been a former member of ISIS.

Clampdown on ISIS remnants

In July, the Pentagon said it killed Syria's top ISIS leader in a drone strike in the northern part of the country.

CENTCOM said he had been "one of the top five" ISIS leaders.

In June, US-led international coalition forces captured a senior ISIS bomb maker in an airborne operation carried out before dawn in a village in northern Syria's Aleppo province.

US officials identified him as Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi, the "Wali of al-Raqa".

In February, a nighttime US raid in the town of Atme led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi.

US officials said al-Qurashi died when he detonated a bomb to avoid capture.

After losing their last territory following a military onslaught conducted by the international coalition backed by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in March 2019, the remnants of ISIS in Syria mostly retreated into desert hideouts.

They have since used such hideouts to ambush Kurdish-led forces and Syrian regime troops, while continuing to mount attacks in Iraq.

"CENTCOM is committed to our allies and partners in the enduring defeat of ISIS," said CENTCOM spokesman Col. Joe Buccino in a Thursday statement.

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