US military: Senior ISIL leader killed in Syria helicopter raid

US Central Command says Abd-al-Hadi Mahmud al-Haji Ali was a planner of ‘terror attacks in the Middle East and Europe’.

A man walks past the sign of Soueida near Jarablus, in the north-east of Syria's Aleppo province, on April 17, 2023,
A man walks past the sign of al-Suwayda near Jarablus, in northern Syria, on April 17, 2023, following a US helicopter raid on an ISIL group leader in the village [Bakr Alkasem/AFP]

United States forces have killed a senior leader of the ISIL (ISIS) group in Syria in a helicopter operation, the US army said.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement that Abd-al-Hadi Mahmud al-Haji Ali was the primary target of a “unilateral helicopter raid” carried out early on Monday morning.

The statement described him as a “leader and operational planner responsible for planning terror attacks in the Middle East and Europe”.

Monday’s raid came following intelligence indicating ISIL was planning to kidnap officials abroad, CENTCOM said.

Two other members of the group were also killed, its statement said.

CENTCOM did not offer any other details about the operation.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the operation on Monday targeted a building in al-Suwaydah, a village about 25km (15 miles) west of the town of Jarablus on Syria’s northern border with Turkey.

The Britain-based war monitor, which relies on sources on the ground, said it killed the main target and two other fighters.

The raid comes two weeks after a US attack in Syria killed another senior ISIL leader, Khalid Aydd Ahmad al-Jabouri, according to US officials.

ISIL controlled large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria from 2014 until its territorial defeat in late 2017.

The armed group lost its last stronghold in 2019 but ISIL fighters continue to carry out deadly attacks in Syria and Iraq.

“We know ISIS retains the desire to strike beyond the Middle East,” Colonel Joe Buccino, a CENTCOM spokesperson, said on Monday following the helicopter operation.

“This raid deals a significant blow to ISIS operations in the region but does not eliminate ISIS’s capability to conduct operations.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies