ISIL leader killed, 4 US troops injured in Syria raid: Pentagon

US military says ‘senior’ ISIL official Hamza al-Homsi was killed in helicopter raid in northeastern Syria.

US soldiers prepare to go out on patrol from a remote combat outpost in northeastern Syria, May 25, 2021 [File: John Moore/Getty Images]

The United States military has said it killed a “senior” ISIL (ISIS) leader in a raid in northeastern Syria as Washington continues its targeting of the group.

The Middle East-based US Central Command (CENTCOM) of the American military announced the operation on Friday, saying that four soldiers were injured during the raid, which was carried out in coordination with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The military said “an explosion on target resulted in four US service members and one working dog wounded” during a helicopter raid in northeastern Syria on Thursday.

“The targeted ISIS senior leader, Hamza al-Homsi, was killed,” CENTCOM said.

Later on Friday White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said al-Homsi “was overseeing the group’s deadly terrorist network in eastern Syria”.

He added that the four soldiers and the dog were in stable condition and receiving treatment in a US medical facility in Iraq.

“No civilians were on the target or injured in the operation,” a CENTCOM spokesperson said, adding that another “ISIS assassination cell leader” was killed in a separate raid on Thursday night, without providing further details.

The raid came less than a month after US forces killed Bilal al-Sudani, an ISIL leader in Somalia, whom Washington described as a “key facilitator for ISIS’s global network”.

US forces killed ISIL’s first top leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a raid in northern Syria in 2019.  His successor Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was also killed in Syria in a similar US operation last year.

ISIL controlled large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria from 2014 until its territorial defeat late in 2017. During that time, the group, which had declared a “caliphate” and inspired attacks on civilian targets across the world, attracted thousands of foreign fighters, including from Europe and the US.

Remaining ISIL cells have continued to carry out occasional attacks against SDF and Syrian government targets. At the same time, the US, which has maintained a military presence in Syria, regularly conducts deadly raids against alleged ISIL officials.

Washington has said its primary military goal in Syria is ensuring ISIL’s lasting defeat. But analysts said American troops also aimed to counter Iranian influence in the country.

ISIL gained a foothold in Syria during the country’s conflict, which began as a popular uprising in 2011 but turned into a protracted war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Although the country has not seen major battles in recent months, Syria remains fragmented between government forces allied with Iran and Russia, the US-backed SDF and various rebel groups.

Amid devastating earthquakes that struck the Syria-Turkey border region earlier this month, Washington has said it is committed to helping the Syrian people through non-governmental organisations but ruled out contact with the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Source: Al Jazeera