AL-HUMAYRAH (Syria): US coalition forces said they captured a senior militant Islamic State group bomb maker in a pre-dawn raid on Thursday that, witnesses said, saw troops in helicopters swoop down on an isolated house in rebel-held northwestern Syria.
A war monitor and AFP correspondents said two military helicopters touched down for only a few minutes, and several shots were fired, in a village in an area controlled by Turkish-backed rebel groups.
“The captured individual is an experienced bomb maker and operational facilitator who became one of the top leaders of Daesh’s Syrian branch,” said the US-led coalition battling the jihadist group in Syria and Iraq, using another name for IS.
The coalition did not name the target in the statement, but a coalition official said the man captured was Hani Ahmed Al-Kurdi, who was the IS leader of Raqa when it was the de facto capital of IS in Syria.
Such operations by US forces are rare in parts of northwestern Syria that are under the control of Turkish-backed rebels and non-IS groups.
A previous special forces raid in early February led to the death of the group’s leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, who detonated a bomb vest to avoid capture.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitoring group with a vast network of sources on the ground, could not confirm the identity of the IS operative captured on Thursday.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said two military helicopters landed in Al-Humayrah and took off seven minutes later, adding that only a few shots were fired. “The US operation was quick and smooth,” he said, adding that it took place in the village of Al-Humayrah, northeast of Aleppo and four kilometres from the Turkish border.
The coalition claimed that “the mission was meticulously planned to minimise the risk of collateral damage, particularly any potential harm to civilians.
“There were no civilians harmed during the operation nor any damage to coalition aircraft or assets,” Mohamed Youssef, a local witness to the raid, said. He said the raid targeted a house on the outskirts of the village where displaced people from the Syrian city of Aleppo were living.
Published in Dawn,June 17th, 2022