US forces have killed at least three leaders of the Islamic State extremist group in Syria in the past 24 hours in a helipad operation and airstrike, the US military announced.
The helicopter operation that targeted one of the leaders, Rakan Wahid al-Shamri, took place Wednesday night in northeast Syria, required the US Middle East Military Command (Centcom) and had place in an enclave controlled by regime forces. the city of Qamishli, controlled by Kurdish forces allied with US troops.
This is the first time since the start of the Syrian war in 2011 that US troops have carried out a helicopter operation in an area under the control of the Bashar al-Assad regime, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Hundreds of US troops are deployed in northeastern Syria as part of a US-led coalition that continues to fight with its Kurdish allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces.
The US command said in a second statement that it had killed two senior members of the extremist group in an airstrike in northern Syria, without specifying exactly where.
In this second attack, according to Centcom, “both Abu Hashum al-Umawi […] as another high-ranking member of the Islamic State,” without harming any civilians.
“This operation will weaken the ability of the Islamic State to destabilize the region and attack our forces and allies,” said the head of the US command in the region, General Michael Kurilla.
“On Wednesday night, US forces carried out a helicopter attack near Qamishli, targeting Rakan Wahid al-Shamri, an Islamic State leader known for facilitating arms smuggling and the clandestine transport of fighters,” he said in a statement. the first Centcom release.
“The individual attacked was killed and one of his companions was injured. Two others were arrested,” he added. No soldiers or civilians were killed or injured in the operation.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the death of Rakan Wahid al-Shamri.
After a meteoric rise to power in 2014 in Iraq and neighboring Syria and the conquest of vast territories, the Islamic State has seen its self-proclaimed caliphate fall under successive offensives. He was defeated in 2017 in Iraq and in 2019 in Syria.
But the extremist group continues to carry out sleeper cell attacks in these two countries.
In July, the United States killed another group leader in a drone strike in northwestern Syria. In June, he captured another in a helicopter operation in northern Syria.
Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was assassinated 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 region largely controlled by jihadists.
The war in Syria, a fragmented country with different protagonists, has claimed the lives of some 500,000 people since 2011.