US raids in Syria kill senior IS leader

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US raids in Syria kill senior IS leader

A rare US helicopter raid on a government-held village in Syria has killed a senior Islamic State militant hiding out there and killed two others after a separate US airstrike on Thursday, the US military says.

The US has carried out previous raids in Syria against members of the Islamic State, but Thursday s would be the first known operation against the group in a zone held by forces loyal to the president, Bashar al-Assad.

Early on Thursday, US special forces carried out a rare operation on the government-held village of Muluk Saray in the north-eastern province of Hasakeh, Syrian state television said in its Telegram channel.

The US military s Central Command said that the target was Rakkan Wahid al-Shammri, an Islamic State member known to facilitate the smuggling of weapons and fighters. It said he was killed during the operation, while one of his associates was wounded and two others were detained by US forces.

No US forces were killed or wounded during the operation, no civilians were killed or wounded, and there was no loss or damage to US equipment, said the Florida-based Central Command, which oversees American troops in the Middle East.

It did not specify the exact location of the raid, but it described it only as close to the village of Qamishli, which is located on Syria's border with Turkey.

Central Command later on Thursday said a US airstrike at 6.32 pm 3.32 pm GMT in northern Syria killed an Islamic State leader it named Abu-Hashum al-Umawi and another senior member of the group it said was associated with him.

A security source said the man who was killed in the earlier US raid was responsible for coordinating Islamic State sleeper cells in the area.

The source said that the operation aims to expand the scope of targeting the organisation's members across different parts of Syria.

The second security source said that US forces had taken their body with them as they retreated.

A local source said the man had moved from Taif, a town near the border with Iraq, which was once an Islamic State stronghold, to the village of Muluk Saray in recent years.

The people thought he was a shepherd, but no one knows his true identity, said the source.

Local sources said that the US forces also raided a building used by Syrian security and detained several people there.

Other residents of the area confirmed the raid to Reuters.

One said that US helicopters arrived in the village after midnight and told residents by loudspeaker to stay indoors and keep their lights off. The operation took several hours and there was no exchange of fire with the US troops, according to the resident.

The US leads a military coalition fighting IS in Syria. In July, the Pentagon said it killed Syria's top IS jihadist in a drone strike in the northern part of the country. Central Command said he had been one of the top five IS leaders.

The July strike came five months after a night-time US raid in the town of Atme, which led to the death of IS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi.

Qurashi died when he detonated a bomb to avoid capture, according to US officials.

After losing their last territory after a military attack backed by the US-led coalition in March 2019, the remnants of IS in Syria retreated into desert hideouts.

They have used hideouts to ambush Kurdish-led forces and Syrian government troops, while continuing to mount attacks in Iraq.