US special forces kill senior ISIS leader in Syria raid
WASHINGTON DC, USA (2nd UPDATE) – US special forces killed a senior Islamic State (ISIS) group leader and captured his wife in a daring night raid in eastern Syria, the White House announced on Saturday, May 16.
In the course of the dramatic operation, a Yazidi woman believed to have been enslaved by the couple was rescued as well, officials said.
The bold raid, with elite American commandos striking at the inner circle of the ISIS group in their eastern Syrian stronghold, was a rare use of "boots on the ground" by the United States, which has fought the jihadists almost entirely from the air.
On orders from President Barack Obama, the special operations forces based in Iraq sought to capture the ISIS militant, Abu Sayyaf, who oversaw oil smuggling and military operations for the jihadists. But the extremist was killed after firing on the US troops, the White House said.
"During the course of the operation, Abu Sayyaf was killed when he engaged US forces," a spokeswoman for the White House national security council, Bernadette Meehan, said in a statement.
His wife, Umm Sayyaf, suspected of being a member of the ISIS group, was captured, Meehan said.
"The operation also led to the freeing of a young Yazidi woman who appears to have been held as a slave by the couple. We intend to reunite her with her family as soon as feasible," Meehan said.
The Yazidis, a religious minority in northwest Iraq with ancient origins, have been persecuted by the ISIS jihadists and rights groups say Yazidi women have been kidnapped, raped and sold among the extremists. (READ: Iraq Yazidis pray for chance to return to homes)
The ISIS militant's wife was under "US military detention in Iraq" but American officials had not yet decided on her ultimate legal fate.
US officials suspect she "played an important role in ISIS' terrorist activities, and may have been complicit in the enslavement of the young woman rescued last night," the White House said.
The American forces went after Sayyaf in Al-Omar in eastern Syria, one of the country's biggest oil fields.
US forces suffered no casualties in the night raid, officials said, without offering details about how many troops were involved or what units were deployed.
US commandoes staged a raid in Syria last year to rescue an American journalist held hostage by the ISIS, James Foley. But the operation failed, and Foley and other hostages had been moved by the time the US forces arrived. (READ: Jihadists claim beheading of US journalist James Foley)
Sayyaf, the senior militant targeted in the latest raid, was involved with ISIS military operations and had "a senior role in overseeing ISIS' illicit oil and gas operations," the White House said.
Th oil smuggling provides "a key source of revenue that enables the terrorist organization to carry out their brutal tactics and oppress thousands of innocent civilians."
The raid was carried out with the full approval of the Iraqi government, officials said.
"The United States will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Iraqi partners in our effort to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS," Meehan said. – Rappler.com