IS leader killed in Syria: US

WASHINGTON: The US military said it conducted a strike that killed Usamah al-Muhajir, an Islamic State leader in eastern Syria.

“The strike on Friday was conducted by the same MQ-9s that had, earlier in the day, been harassed by Russian aircraft in an encounter that had lasted almost two hours,” a statement from US Central Command said Sunday.

It was not immediately clear how the US military confirmed that the person killed was Muhajir. Central Command did not give any more details about him.

The statement said there were no indications any civilians were killed in the strike. The military was assessing reports that a civilian may have been injured.

“We have made it clear that we remain committed to the defeat of Isis throughout the region,” Gen Erik Kurilla, commander of US Central Command, said in the statement.

Washington has stepped up raids and operations against suspected Islamic State operatives in Syria, killing and arresting leaders who had taken shelter in areas under Turkey-backed rebel control after the group lost its last territory in Syria in 2019.

The US-led campaign which killed former IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who declared himself the “caliph of all Muslims”, has since targeted surviving leaders, many of whom are thought to have planned attacks abroad.

US military commanders say the IS remains a significant threat within the region, though its capabilities have been degraded and its ability to re-establish its network weakened.

At its peak in 2014, the IS controlled one-third of Iraq and Syria. Though it was beaten back in both countries, its militants continue to mount insurgent attacks.

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