A US helicopter raid in Syria targeted a senior ISIS leader early on Monday morning, according to reports. “We believe the raid killed a senior ISIS Syria leader and operational planner responsible for planning terror attacks in the Middle East and Europe,” said US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Col. Joe Buccino, according to various reports. The raid comes after a separate report saying that the worldwide jihadist group murdered dozens of civilians during an attack on people who were collecting truffles in another part of Syria.
Initial reports of the helicopter raid did not indicate who the ISIS senior leader was who was targeted. Nevertheless this appears to be an important raid and is one of several recent operations by the US in Syria that have netted or neutralized ISIS commanders and leadership. Two others were also reportedly killed in the raid, according to Buccino’s comments, which were reported by CNN.
Jared Szuba at Al-Monitor noted that “local reports claimed US helicopters landed near the village of Al-Ghandoura in the countryside outside of Jarabalus before US forces stormed a house.” The location is interesting because this is an area that is controlled by Turkish-backed militias. Other sources said the raid took place near the village of Suwayda which is near the village of Ghandoura, which itself is an administrative center for a district of the same name.
If it is accurate that a senior ISIS leader responsible for planning terror attacks in the region and in Europe was eliminated in the raid, this will be important and will lead to questions about why he was found near Jarabulus. This is a developing story and the full details will likely emerge over the coming days.
According to Kurdish journalist Jamal Bali in a post on Twitter, at least five military helicopters “participated in the operation.” One report by a Turkish source said helicopters could be heard over the area, which is near the Turkish border, at around one or two in the morning. The village called Ghandoura is spelled Gindira in Turkish. According to a Syrian activist, two members of the Suqur al-Sham Syrian opposition militia were killed in the clashes that took place amid the raid.
US is increasing operations against ISIS in Syria
THE US appears to be increasing the tempo of operations against ISIS in Syria. America’s partners on the ground are the Syrian Democratic Forces. The US has only a few hundred troops in Syria; the SDF has tens of thousands of fighters. On April 12, CENTCOM said that it had conducted a raid using helicopters targeting Hudayfah al Yemeni, an ISIS attack facilitator, and two of his associates. No civilians were killed or injured, Washington said at the time. That raid took place on April 8 but was not reported until the 12th. “The capture of Hudayfah al Yemeni and his associates will disrupt the organization’s ability to plot and carry out operations,” the US said.
“Operations against ISIS are important for the security and stability of the region,” Buccino said. “ISIS remains a threat to the region and beyond – the group retains the capability to conduct operations in Iraq and Syria with a desire to strike beyond the Middle East, and its vile ideology remains a threat. Operations such as this one reaffirm our commitment to the enduring defeat of ISIS.”
ISIS continues to carry out attacks. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) the worldwide terrorist group also targeted Syrian regime forces near Hama recently. It has also continued to murder people that are collecting truffles in the desert. As spring arrives, the desert is in bloom. According to Rudaw media, which based its report on SOHR, ISIS also targeted shepherds near Deir Ezzor recently.
“Despite repeated warnings from authorities, hundreds of poverty-stricken Syrians venture into the Badia desert between February and April each year in search of truffles. The desert is known to be a hideout for jihadists and also contains land mines, making it a high-risk area to search for the delicious delicacy,” Rudaw noted.
In another incident, the SDF also detained an ISIS operative on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, opposite Deir Ezzor. There was also a clash between the SDF and ISIS reported on Sunday. On April 4, US Central Command said that it carried out an airstrike in Syria killing Khalid ‘Aydd Ahmad al-Jabouri, an ISIS senior leader, who “was responsible for planning ISIS attacks in Europe and developed the leadership structure for ISIS,” the US said.