US raid catches senior IS leader alive in Syria

US-led coalition forces said they captured a senior leader of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) in an overnight raid in northern Syria.

The man was “an experienced bomb maker and operational facilitator”, a coalition statement said.

Officials told US media that he was named Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi.

A monitoring group said troops were dropped by two helicopters in al-Humayra, close to the Turkish border in opposition-held Aleppo province.

There were seven minutes of armed clashes between the troops and people inside the village before the helicopters flew off, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

They later landed at a base in the Kobane region in eastern Aleppo province, controlled by Turkish-backed rebel factions, it added.

A resident of al-Humayra, Mohammed Youssef, said the troops raided a house on the edge of the village where he believed displaced people from the city of Aleppo were staying.

“After the helicopters left, we went towards the house and found the women tied up and the children in the field,” he told AFP news agency.

“They took one man with them, but we don’t know where the other men are. After we untied them (the women), they said: ‘They took a man named Fawaz.'”

The coalition statement said the mission was “meticulously planned to minimise the risk of collateral damage or civilian harm”.

“The operation was successful; no civilian was harmed nor were there injuries to coalition forces or damage to coalition aircraft or assets.”

The Washington Post cited US officials as saying the captured IS leader was Ahmed Kurdi and that he was also known as the “wali”, or governor, of Raqqa.

Raqqa was a city east of Aleppo that was the de facto capital of the “caliphate” proclaimed by IS in 2014, after it seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq and imposed its brutal rule on millions of people.

The group was driven from its last piece of territory in 2019 by the coalition and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces militia alliance, but the United Nations (UN) estimated it still had between 6,000 and 10,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq who continued to carry out hit-and-run attacks, ambushes and roadside bombings. -AFP

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