US strike kills ISIS leader in north-west Syria

Khalid Aydd Ahmad Al Jabouri planned attacks in Europe and developed the group's network

US soldiers next to their armoured military vehicle, near Rumaylan, in Syria's north-eastern Hasakeh province. AFP
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A senior ISIS leader was killed in a US military strike in Syria on Monday.

Khalid Aydd Ahmad Al Jabouri died in a strike in Syria's north-west region, the US Central Command said.

No civilians were killed or injured in the incident, it said.

The US military did not disclose the location of the attack.

Al Jabouri planned ISIS attacks in Europe and developed the group's leadership network.

His death will “temporarily disrupt the organisation’s ability to plot external attacks”, the command said.

Speaking to The National, Syria expert Aymenn Al Tamimi said he doesn't believe the "immediate picture" of ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria will change after the strike.

"The group has survived many losses of leading figures," said Mr Al Tamimi, who is also an Arabic translator and editor at Castlereagh Associates, a Middle East-focused consultancy firm.

"I would say the group still remains a relatively low level insurgency problem in Iraq and Syria, this has been the case since 2019.

"Elsewhere around the world it’s a mixed picture: the biggest concern in my view being the growth of the scale of affiliate operations in sub-Saharan Africa."

"He was not well known," Mr Al Tamimi said of the recent death. "Details about the leadership are extremely hard to come by for observers of the movement."

The US regularly carries out anti-terror operations as leader of the global coalition to defeat ISIS.

About 900 US troops are based in Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the combined task force assisting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIS remnants.

Four US troops were injured in a raid that killed senior ISIS leader Hamza Al Homsi in February.

The troops and a military dog were injured in an explosion triggered by Al Homsi, who “oversaw the group's terrorist network in eastern Syria”.

ISIS official Ibrahim Al Qahtani was also killed by US forces in February.

They said he was responsible for planning attacks on detention centres of ISIS prisoners in northern Syria.

Despite being defeated in Syria in 2019, ISIS continues to wage a low-level insurgency across northern Iraq and Syria, where it controlled territories from 2014. The group's attacks in Iraq have reached an all time record low, according to California-based analyst Joel Wing, who has tracked levels of violence in the country since 2008.

'Threat to the region'

US commanders say Washington's presence in Syria is “worth the risk” to ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS.

“ISIS continues to represent a threat to the region and beyond,” Gen Michael Kurilla, head of the US military's Central Command said on Tuesday.

“Though degraded, the group remains able to conduct operations within the region with a desire to strike beyond the Middle East.”

A top general has warned that the terrorist group could return “within one to two years” if US troops leave Syria.

Colin Clarke, head of research at the Soufan group, an American think tank on international security, said ISIS "has a clear succession plan and has continued to elevate other members to important positions".

The group "still very much has the intent to strike Europe and to attack the West, but it's struggling somewhat with the capability part of that equation", he told AFP.

The group often carries out attacks against the Syrian Democratic Forces coalition and both Kurdish and federal security forces in neighbouring Iraq, where it has taken advantage of a security vacuum in disputed territory.

ISIS prison detainees and residents of Al Hol camp in north-east Syria have also staged riots and attacks against SDF guards.

Updated: April 04, 2023, 4:48 PM