US forces have arrested a “senior official” from the Islamic State group and five other jihadists in raids in eastern Syria over two days, the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) said Tuesday.
Since IS fighters were dislodged from the last scraps of their Syrian territory in 2019, a US-led coalition has conducted regular air operations against suspected group remnants.
“Over the past 48 hours, US Central Command forces conducted three helicopter raids in eastern Syria,” CENTCOM said in a statement.
Six IS “operatives” have been arrested, it added, including a commander identified as Al-Zubaydi who had been “involved in the planning and facilitation” of attacks in Syria.
“Initial assessments indicate no civilians were killed or injured,” the statement said.
CENTCOM chief General Michael Kurilla said the arrests “will disrupt the terrorist organisation’s ability to further plot and carry out destabilising attacks.”
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) December 20, 2022
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) also took part in the operation.
Four of those captured were active in IS’s arms trade, said the Observatory, which relies on a vast network of sources on the ground in Syria.
It reported that two of the raids targeted the eastern Deir Ezzor province and the third the northeastern Hasakeh province, both under Kurdish control.
Separately in northern Syria, the Observatory said a US-led coalition drone struck a house early Tuesday in the city of Al-Bab, which is controlled by Turkish-affiliated Syrian factions.
The Observatory said an IS commander from the Arabian Peninsula and two civilians were wounded in the strike.
An AFP photographer said members of Turkish-affiliated factions had cordoned off the bombed house.
CENTCOM did not respond to a request for comment on the Al-Bab strike.
A wounded man “with a Yemeni accent was brought to the hospital after the attack,” said a medical source from a local hospital.
He told AFP on condition of anonymity that Ankara-backed fighters then took the man to an undisclosed location.
On October 27, 2019, Washington announced the death of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a raid by US special forces in northwest Syria.
In 2022, his two successors have also been killed: the first during a US operation in February in northwestern Syria, the second in an October operation by former Syrian rebels in the country’s south.