US special forces on Thursday carried out an unusual helicopter raid near the village of Qamishli, an area controlled by Syria’s central government, in an apparently successful effort to root out an Islamic State arms smuggler.
A second United States operation in northern Syria less than 24 hours later reportedly killed two more senior ISIS officials.
The Qamishli raid was the first mentionted by Syrian state media and later confirmed by US 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 carried out after midnight by three US helicopters, which used loudspeakers to warn citizens to stay indoors with lights off. Witnesses said there was no major exchange of fire during the operation, which lasted about three hours.
A different set of witnesses he said Al-Araby news heard “several individual weapon explosions fired from Syrian government checkpoints on the outskirts of the village during the raid.” These sources said the ISIS leader killed by US operatives has been living in their village for “several years”, posing as a shepherd.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described Thursday’s raid as “the first time” that United States forces have conducted such an operation in regime-controlled territory 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 terror group’s captives.
CENTCOM said “more than 1,000 hours of intelligence gathering” went into planning the attack and said there were no reports of civilian casualties.
“Killing ISIS’s deputy emir for Syria is a significant achievement, given that Syria is clearly where ISIS is investing most of its resources these days,” said Middle East Institute director Charles Lister. VOA 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. The rate of ISIS attack in northeastern Syria has increased significantly for several months. That makes these American businesses even more important,” Lister added.