US drone strikes in Syria kill key Daesh leader, says Centcom

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Smoke rises after an air strike during fighting between members of the Syrian Democratic Forces and Daesh militants in Raqqa, Syria. — Reuters/File
Smoke rises after an air strike during fighting between members of the Syrian Democratic Forces and Daesh militants in Raqqa, Syria. — Reuters/File

The US Central Command (Centcom) announced Sunday that a drone strike by the military killed a key Daesh leader in Syria, as Washington forces are conducting their operations against terrorist elements in the country.

A statement from US Centcom read: “The strike Friday resulted in the death of Osama al-Muhajer, IS [also known as Daesh] leader in eastern Syria.”

Centcom chief General Michael Kurilla was quoted as saying: “We have made it clear that we remain committed to the defeat of ISIS throughout the region.”

“ISIS remains a threat, not only to the region but well beyond,” he added.

According to Centcom, no civilians were killed in the operation but coalition forces are “assessing reports of a civilian injury”.

Centcom said that Friday’s strike “was conducted by the same MQ-9s [drones] that had… been harassed by Russian aircraft in an encounter that had lasted almost two hours.”

The drone strike comes days after US drones taking part in operations against IS in Syria were approached Thursday, for the second time in 24 hours, by Russian military aircraft, a US commander said at the time.

Air Force Lieutenant General Alexus Grynkewich said the planes “dropped flares in front of the drones and flew dangerously close, endangering the safety of all aircraft involved”.

In another incident Wednesday, three Russian jets dropped parachute flares in front of US drones, forcing them to take evasive action, Grynkewich has said, calling on Moscow to “cease this reckless behaviour”.

Russia is an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and with the backing of Moscow and Iran, Assad has clawed back much of the ground lost in the early stages of the Syrian conflict that erupted in 2011 when the government repressed pro-democracy protests.

The last pockets of armed opposition to the regime include large swathes of the northern rebel-held Idlib province.

The US has about 1,000 troops deployed in Syria as part of international efforts to combat IS jihadists, who were defeated in Syria in 2019 but still maintain hideouts in remote desert areas and conduct frequent attacks.



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