US helicopter raid in Syria targets Daesh leader

BEIRUT (AP): A helicopter raid by US forces in northern Syria early on Monday resulted in the “probable death” of a senior leader of the militant Daesh group, the US military said.

The US Central Command said in a statement that the Daesh leader, who was not named, was “responsible for planning terror attacks in the Middle East and Europe.” Two other “armed individuals” were killed along with the target of the raid, CENTCOM said. The statement said no civilians or US troops were hurt in the operation.

Syria’s White Helmets, a civil defense group operating in opposition-held areas of northern Syria, said it transported two people wounded during the raid to a local hospital, which later said they had died. A third person was killed when the US forces landed for the raid, the White Helmets said.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which partners with the US in anti-Daesh operations in northeast Syria, said that the operation was launched from a base near the town of Kobani and targeted a military site belonging to a Turkish-backed armed opposition group, Suqour Al-Shamal, in the village of village of Suwayda in the region of Jarablus, near the Turkish border.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, reported that the raid had resulted in the arrest of a senior Daesh leader and killed three people. The US military made no mention of any arrests.

The Observatory said “violent clashes” took place after the helicopter landed, the first such landing this year.

At least 900 US troops are deployed in Syria, along with an undisclosed number of contractors.

The Daesh group, which swept through Iraq and Syria in 2014, taking control of large swaths of territory, was defeated in Syria in 2019, but sleeper cells maintain a presence and periodically stage attacks on military and civilian targets.