Image source: NPR
Two ISIS leaders were shot dead in northern Syria after US forces launched an airstrike on Thursday, two defense officials said.
The airstrike came the day after a US airstrike killed an ISIS leader.
It killed Abu ‘Ala, one of the top five leaders and deputy leaders of ISIS in Syria, as well as Abu Mu’Ad al-Qahtani, an ISIS official in charge of prisoners’ affairs.
The airstrike occurred at 6:23 p.m. local time in Syria.
The operation left American troops and equipment unscathed.
Officials said US Central Command forces in the region had spent more than 1,000 hours gathering intelligence on targets to mitigate the risk of collateral damage.
An initial assessment showed that no civilians had been killed or injured.
The Pentagon issued a statement Thursday saying the airstrike came after a Wednesday strike in northeastern Syria that killed an Islamic State arms dealer.
Although the Islamic State has been reduced to a fraction of itself, the United States has continued to follow the example of the terrorist group.
In a short time, they carried out successive raids and airstrikes, demonstrating the greatest intensity of the operation against the terrorist group.
The operations also underscored the United States’ desire to ensure that ISIS does not grow stronger.
The United States Central Command issued a statement stating:
“Last night, the US Central Command forces conducted a helicopter raid in northeast Syria, near the village of Qamishli, targeting Rakkan Wahid al-Shammri, an ISIS official known to facilitate the smuggling of weapons and fight to support ISIS operations.”
“During the operation, the targeted individual was killed, and one of his associates was wounded.”
CENTCOM also clarified that no US forces or civilians were killed or injured during the operation.
According to three defense officials, the smuggled weapons were used in ISIS operations.
One of the officials said the raid was a unilateral US operation without coalition involvement to defeat ISIS.
US forces used helicopters during the operation.
The Dispute Resolution Line was not used to brief Russia prior to the operation due to the location of the raid and its sensitivity.
“USCENTCOM is committed to our allies and partners in the enduring defeat of ISIS,” said Col. Joe Buccino, a CENTCOM spokesman.
Earlier Thursday, the Pentagon said a senior ISIS official had been attacked but declined to provide further details.
Meanwhile, Syrian state television said on Telegram that one person had been killed during a US operation in northeast Syria.
They also accused the United States of kidnapping several people.
The year-long ISIS raid
In 2022, the United States pursued several high-ranking ISIS agents in Syria.
In February, they raided northwestern Syria, where ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was killed after blowing himself up.
The last time the United States made a major foray into Syria was in 2019, when it carried out an operation that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former leader of ISIS.
When ISIS confirmed that Baghdadi had been killed in November 2019, Qurayshi was named its new leader.
According to officials, the United States had been aware of his whereabouts for months prior to the raid.
Qurayshi sat with his family on the third floor of a building where he ran ISIS operations through a messaging network.
His deputy was also killed in the raid.
Since March, the leader of IS has been Abu al-Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi.
Months after the Qurayshi attack, the US-led Joint Task Force to Counter ISIS arrested Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi, known as Salim, another prominent ISIS leader in Syria.
In July, the United States carried out a drone strike in northwestern Syria that killed Maher al-Agal, the leader of ISIS in Syria.
US military operations
Operations in Syria continued even as the Biden administration sought to withdraw the military from the Middle East to focus on the challenges ahead.
Recently, China and Russia have become increasingly confident and willing to use violence against their neighbors.
Even after the defeat of the self-proclaimed Islamic State caliphate in 2019, the group continued to attempt to regroup to challenge the US-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State.
Their efforts include several attempted attacks on Syria’s al-Hol camp, which houses more than 60,000 people.
The terrorist group considers the camp a recruitment camp.
According to US Central Command, ISIS attempted a suicide attack on the camp by arming two vehicles with explosives.
One vehicle exploded prematurely while the other was intercepted by the Syrian Democratic Forces.