A second United States operation in northern Syria less than 24 hours later reportedly killed two more senior ISIS officials.
The Qamishli raid was first reported by Syrian state media and later confirmed by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).
CENTCOM said two of al-Shammri’s associates were captured alive by United States forces and a third was wounded during the operation. No United States or allied forces were killed or injured, and there were no civilian casualties.
According to eyewitnesses, the raid was conducted after midnight by three American helicopters, which used loudspeakers to warn civilians to remain indoors with their lights off. The witnesses said there was no significant exchange of gunfire during the operation, which lasted about three hours.
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A different group of witnesses told Al-Araby news they heard “several bursts of individual weapons launched from Syrian government checkpoints on the outskirts of the village during the raid.” These sources said the ISIS leader killed by American operators has been living in their village for “several years,” posing as a herdsman.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described Thursday’s raid as “the first time” United States forces have conducted such an operation in territory controlled by the regime in Damascus.
The second raid was an airstrike targeting a “top five” ISIS official named Abu ‘Ala, according to CENTCOM on Thursday. The strike also killed Abu Mu’ad al-Qahtani, an ISIS official who managed the terrorist organization’s prisoners.
CENTCOM said over “1,000 hours of intelligence collection” went into planning the strike, and said there was no evidence of any civilian casualties.
“To have killed ISIS’s deputy emir for Syria is a significant achievement, given that Syria is clearly where ISIS is investing its resources most these days,” Middle East Institute counterterrorism director Charles Lister told Voice of America News (VOA) on Thursday.
“Syria has long been the group’s strategic depth, but today, it offers its greatest potential to fuel a future resurgence. ISIS’s attack tempo in northeastern Syria has markedly increased for several months. That makes these U.S. operations all the more important,” Lister added.