A U.S. helicopter raid in northern Syria killed a senior Islamic State leader who was in charge of planning attacks in the Middle East and Europe, Washington said on Monday.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces killed Abd-al-Hadi Mahmud al-Haji Ali and two other operatives of the extremist militia organisation Islamic State, also known as ISIS, in a morning raid, the Pentagon said.
The man was a senior Islamic State leader and “operational planner responsible for planning terror attacks in the Middle East and Europe,” CENTCOM said in a statement, adding that he was the target of the operation.
The U.S. military said that the raid was launched after intelligence revealed an Islamic State plot to kidnap officials abroad to use as leverage for the terror group’s initiatives.
“We know ISIS retains the desire to strike beyond the Middle East,” CENTCOM spokesperson Colonel Joe Buccino said.
“This raid deals a significant blow to ISIS operations in the region but does not eliminate ISIS’ capability to conduct operations,” Buccino added.
Earlier on Monday, CENTCOM had said that two armed individuals were killed in the operation, while no civilians were believed to have been killed or wounded in the raid.
Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, confirmed to dpa that the operation had taken place.
Rahman said three people were killed – two on the site of the operation itself and a third – on the outskirts of a village.
The observatory said the attack took place in the countryside of Jarabulus, east of Aleppo after midnight Sunday.
U.S. forces were deployed to Syria in 2015 to assist the Syrian Kurds and their allies in the fight against Islamic State.