ISIS commander blows himself up after being surrounded in Syria

The extremist group has now lost most of its senior leadership in raids and drone strikes this year

Syrian troops outside Kobani, in the country's north, where ISIS has a presence. Reuters
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A senior ISIS extremist died during a military operation in Syria, state-linked Sana news outlet has reported.

The terrorist, Abu Salem Al Iraqi, “triggered his explosive belt” and blew himself up after being surrounded and wounded, Sana reported, quoting Syrian forces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a conflict monitor, confirmed that the Iraqi militant died in the southern Deraa province.

A security source said Al Iraqi had been a military chief in the extremist group. But his real name was not provided.

ISIS members often operate under pseudonyms based on their country or town of origin.

The observatory said Al Iraqi had been hiding out in the area since 2018, and had taken part in killings and attacks there.

Deraa province has mostly been under regime control since 2018.

Opposition groups – which have supposedly disarmed – still control some areas, under a truce struck with Russia, an ally of the Syrian government.

There has been sporadic violence in the province, including cases where security forces have been ambushed. But the level of fighting is insignificant when compared to the height of the civil war.

ISIS retains some influence in north-eastern Syria, much of which is under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed militia made up of mostly Kurdish fighters.

The militia has been on the offensive against the terrorist group and said recently that 17 ISIS “leaders and operatives” had been killed in June. The head of ISIS in Syria was killed in a raid on June 27.

Former ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim Al Hashimi Al Qurayshi was killed in Idlib province by US special forces in February.

In north-eastern Syria, ISIS coexists with several militant groups aligned with Al Qaeda. However, extremist leaders are under constant tracking and surveillance by US intelligence agencies.

The extremist group also has a presence in Syria's far north, parts of which are occupied by Turkish-backed groups.

In July, senior ISIS commander Maher Al Agal was killed in a US drone strike in Afrin, a Kurdish-majority province occupied by Turkish-backed rebels.

After a swift rise to prominence in 2014 in Iraq and Syria, during which it conquered vast areas of territory, the extremist group's self-proclaimed “caliphate” collapsed under a wave of offensives.

ISIS was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later, but sleeper cells of the extremist group still carry out attacks in both countries.

Syria's war, which began in 2011, has left 500,000 people dead and forced about half of the country's pre-war population from their homes.

Updated: August 11, 2022, 7:20 PM