WASHINGTON — The U.S. army carried out a drone strike in Syria on Tuesday that officers mentioned killed a high Islamic State commander, the third main American counterterrorism operation in the nation’s northwest in the previous month.
The assault killed Maher al-Agal, the chief of the terrorist group’s Syria department and considered one of its high 5 leaders worldwide, and significantly injured one other militant, in keeping with statements from the White House and the army’s Central Command. Mr. al-Agal was chargeable for “aggressively pursuing the development of ISIS networks outside of Iraq and Syria,” the army mentioned.
“His death in Syria takes a key terrorist off the field and significantly degrades the ability of ISIS to plan, resource and conduct their operations in the region,” President Biden mentioned in an announcement.
“It sends a powerful message to all terrorists who threaten our homeland and our interests around the world,” he added. “The United States will be relentless in its efforts to bring you to justice.”
The drone strike was the most recent in a collection of American army operations in opposition to ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria, which have been comparatively uncommon because the fall of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate in 2019.
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On June 16, Army Delta Force commandos seized Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi, a high Islamic State bomb maker and operations facilitator also called Salim, in a floor raid in Aleppo, Syria. Nine days later, the United States carried out an airstrike in Idlib Province that the army mentioned killed Abu Hamzah al Yemeni, a senior chief of Hurras al-Din, Al Qaeda’s department in Syria.
The U.S. assault on Tuesday got here as Mr. Biden ready to depart for Israel and Saudi Arabia, his first go to to the Middle East as president. The journey will largely give attention to Iran’s nuclear program and malign actions in the area. A White House official mentioned on Monday that Russia was seeking hundreds of surveillance drones from Iran, together with these able to firing missiles, to make use of in the conflict in Ukraine.
There are nonetheless vivid reminders of the smoldering menace posed by Al Qaeda and ISIS, which American intelligence officers say has about 10,000 fighters who’ve shifted to guerrilla operations in Iraq and Syria because the collapse of the caliphate.
A dangerous predawn raid in northwest Syria in early February by U.S. Special Operations forces resulted in the loss of life of the Islamic State’s total chief, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. The two-hour assault by helicopter-borne commandos got here days after the top of the biggest U.S. fight involvement with the Islamic State because the finish of its caliphate. American forces backed a Kurdish-led militia in northeastern Syria as it fought for more than a week to oust Islamic State fighters from a jail they’d occupied in town of Hasaka.
Hundreds of individuals have been killed in the battle, which provided stark proof that the group’s capability to sow chaotic violence persists, counterterrorism specialists mentioned.
The American operation in February that resulted in Mr. al-Qurayshi’s loss of life resembled an assault in October 2019 in which Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the earlier chief of the Islamic State, died when he detonated a suicide vest as U.S. forces raided a hide-out close to the place Mr. al-Qurayshi was.
“It’s clear that ISIS members are entrenched in northwestern Syria, even as their leaders continue to be apprehended and killed there,” Colin P. Clarke, a counterterrorism analyst on the Soufan Group, a safety consulting agency primarily based in New York, mentioned on Tuesday. “It seems more likely that they have extremely limited options and that their freedom of movement has been restricted to a handful of areas where they believe they can blend in with other jihadists and large civilian populations.”