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File photo of US army soldiers in northern Syria in 2020. Alamy Stock Photo

IS leader responsible for planning Europe attacks killed in air strike, US military says

US Central Command said the strike on Monday killed senior Islamic State leader Khalid Aydd Ahmad al-Jabouri.

THE US MILITARY has said it carried out a strike in Syria killing a senior Islamic State group official responsible for planning attacks in Europe.

The strike in northwestern Syria on Monday killed senior IS leader Khalid Aydd Ahmad al-Jabouri, US Central Command said.

It said he was “responsible for planning (IS) attacks into Europe”. The statement did not specify the location of the strike and added that “no civilians were killed or injured”.

“Though degraded”, the jihadist group, which was ousted from its last territory in Syria in 2019, “remains able to conduct operations within the region with a desire to strike beyond the Middle East,” said CENTCOM chief General Michael Kurilla.

Jabouri also “developed the leadership structure for IS” and his death will “temporarily disrupt the organisation’s ability to plot external attacks,” CENTCOM said.

IS has claimed a number of deadly attacks in Europe in recent years, including a November 2015 attack in Paris and its suburbs that killed 130 people and another in the French city of Nice in July 2016 that killed 86 people.

The same year, three suicide attacks in Belgium killed more than 30 people. In August 2017, attacks claimed by IS in Barcelona and elsewhere in Spain killed 16 people.

Drone strike

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the more than decade-old conflict in Syria, said Jabouri was killed in a US drone strike in the Idlib region of the northwest, an area run by jihadists.

It said he was killed while speaking on a telephone as he walked in the open near where he was staying.

The Observatory said that Jabouri, who was posing as a Syrian, had sought refuge in the area some 10 days ago.

The CENTCOM chief said that IS, despite no longer controlling any territory in either Syria or Iraq, “continues to represent a threat to the region and beyond”.

“CENTCOM remains committed to the enduring defeat” of IS, Kurilla said.

Some 900 US troops remain in Syria, most in the Kurdish-administered northeast, as part of a US-led coalition battling remnants of IS, who remain active in both Syria and neighbouring Iraq, operating out of hideouts in desert and mountain area.

In October 2019, Washington announced it had killed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an operation in northwestern Syria.

His two successors have also been killed: the first during a US operation in northwestern Syria, the second in an operation by former Syrian rebels in the country’s south.

In February this year, a US helicopter raid killed IS commander Hamza al-Homsi, who oversaw the jihadists’ operations in northeastern Syria. Four US military personnel were wounded in the operation.

Inside Syria, IS has carried out a spate of deadly attacks this year, many of them opportunistic.

Impoverished Syrians foraging for desert truffles to sell have been a particular target for the jihadists while the delicacy has been in season in recent months, with dozens killed in ambushes.

© AFP 2023

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