Islamic State leader 'eliminated' in US operation in Syria

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Abu Ibrahim al-Hachimi al-Qurachi, the leader of the Islamic State group, died Thursday in an explosion during a US raid in the province of Idleb, in northwestern Syria. The announcement was made by United States President Joe Biden.

The leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Ibrahim al-Hachimi al-Qurachi, was killed during a US special forces operation before dawn on Thursday, February 3, in Syria, more than two years after elimination of its predecessor.

The US military "eliminated the leader of the ultra-radical group from the battlefield" during an operation in northwestern Syria, US President Joe Biden announced in Washington.

All American soldiers are safe and sound, the president said, announcing that he would address the American people later in the morning.

According to a senior American official, the leader of the EI group died in an explosion which he himself caused during the American raid. "At the start of the operation, the terrorist target detonated a bomb which killed him and his own family members including women and children," he said.

Nicknamed "the professor" or the "destroyer", Amir Mohammed Said Abdel Rahman al-Mawla, a jihadist with multiple aliases presented by the jihadist group as "the emir" Abu Ibrahim al-Hachimi al-Qourachi, has, among other things, chaired to the massacre of the Kurdophone minority of the Yazidis.

US military ground operation

The helicopter operation took place in Atme, a region of Idleb province, and killed thirteen people, including four women and three children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH).

In October 2019, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Qurachi's predecessor, was killed in a raid in the Idleb region, largely controlled by jihadists and rebels. "Several IS leaders have taken refuge in this region of Idleb because of the security vacuum that reigns there," said Wassim Nasr, a journalist for France 24 specializing in jihadist movements.

According to the OSDH, the soldiers landed by helicopter near camps for displaced people in the locality of Atmé, clashes then broke out. According to AFP correspondents on the spot, the operation targeted a two-storey building in an area surrounded by trees. Part of the building was destroyed and the floor of the rooms was covered in blood.

Still according to the OSDH, the American helicopters took off from a military base in the Syrian town of Kobani, with a Kurdish majority, near the Turkish border. Members of the special forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the Kurds and trained by the United States, took part in the operation, according to the NGO.

Ahead of the US announcement, Farhad Shami, the SDF spokesman, said on Twitter that the operation "targets the most dangerous international terrorists".

In an audio recording attributed to US forces and circulating among the population, a person speaking Arabic asks women and children to evacuate homes in the targeted area. According to experts, overcrowded camps for displaced people in the Atme region, located in the north of the province of Idlib, serve as a base for the jihadist leaders who are hiding there.

Assault on Hassaké prison precipitated military operation

Much of Idlib province as well as parts of neighboring Hama, Aleppo and Latakia provinces are dominated by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. Rebel groups and other jihadist factions like Houras al-Din are also present there. These factions have already been the target of airstrikes mainly from the Syrian regime, its Russian ally, but also from the international anti-jihadist coalition led by the United States and American special forces.

During this American operation, explains Wassim Nasr, there was “most likely” coordination with HTS, in connection with Turkey. “The area was squared from the American intervention: no one entered or left on the ground. »

Nevertheless, helicopter operations remain very rare in Syria, where US troops are deployed as part of the coalition.

For Wassim Nasr, it is no coincidence that Thursday's operation took place a few days after the end of an assault by the IS group against a prison held by the FDS, in the region of Hassaké (northeast). '”We can suspect that thanks to the attack on the prison in Hassaké, there was contact with the leader of the IS and that it was this thread that the Americans unrolled to get to him. »

The assault on the Hassaké prison was the jihadist group's largest offensive since its territorial defeat in Syria in 2019 against the SDF. The attack on the prison and the fighting that followed killed 373 people, including 268 jihadists, 98 members of the Kurdish forces and seven civilians according to the OSDH.

With AFP

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