United States special forces carried out a rare operation in a government-held village in northeastern Syria, killing a member of ISIL (ISIS) and wounding and capturing others, the US confirmed after reports on Syrian state TV.
American forces carried out a helicopter raid in Syria “near the village of Qamishli, targeting Rakkan Wahid al-Shammri, an ISIS official known to facilitate the smuggling of weapons and fighters to support ISIS operations”, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement on Thursday.
Al-Shammri was killed, one of his associates was wounded and two others were detained by US forces, CENTCOM said.
The operation occurred in an area of Hassakeh province “in the village of Muluk Saray in the southern countryside of Qamishli”, which is partly held by government forces and partly held by US-backed Kurdish fighters, according to Syria’s state broadcaster.
No civilians or US forces were killed or injured in the raid, the US statement said.
The US has carried out previous raids in Syria to target members of ISIL, but Thursday’s operation would be the first known raid in a government-held area.
The village targeted by the operation lies 17km (10 miles) south of the city of Qamishli and is controlled by Syrian regime forces, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“It is the first time” that US forces have conducted such an operation in regime-held areas, the monitoring group said, without identifying the victim.
Several other people were captured, the monitor said, without providing a figure.
One village resident said three US helicopters carrying troops landed in the village after midnight and told residents by loudspeaker to stay indoors and keep their lights off.
The resident said the operation lasted several hours and there was no exchange of fire with US troops.
Remnants of ISIL
Washington is part of a US-led coalition battling ISIL in Syria.
In July, the Pentagon said it killed Syria’s top ISIL commander in a drone attack in the northern part of the country.
CENTCOM said he had been “one of the top five” leaders of the armed group.
The July raid was five months after a nighttime US raid in the town of Atme, which led to the death of the overall ISIL 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 backed by the US-led coalition in March 2019, the remnants of ISIL in Syria mostly retreated into desert hideouts.
They have since used such hideouts to ambush Kurdish-led forces and Syrian government troops while continuing to mount attacks in Iraq.
US forces in Syria have come under attack in recent months from what the US government has called Iran-backed militia groups.
Most recently, at least four rockets were launched towards the military’s Green Village base in northeastern Syria on September 19.
CENTCOM said the attack failed to hit US or coalition forces and equipment.