US Airstrike Kills Senior Al-Qaeda Leader in Northwest Syria - CENTCOM

© REUTERS / Patrick T. Fallon A General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper stands on the runway during "Black Dart", a live-fly, live fire demonstration of 55 unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, at Naval Base Ventura County Sea Range, Point Mugu, near Oxnard, California July 31, 2015
A General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper stands on the runway during Black Dart, a live-fly, live fire demonstration of 55 unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, at Naval Base Ventura County Sea Range, Point Mugu, near Oxnard, California July 31, 2015 - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.10.2021
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US operations against al-Qaeda* in Syria have increased since the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government in August, when US President Joe Biden reframed the US war on terror as having "metastasized" beyond Afghanistan's borders.
US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Friday that another US airstrike had killed a senior al-Qaeda commander in Suluk, in Syria's northern Raqqa Governorate.
"A US airstrike today in northwest Syria killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar. We have no indications of civilian casualties as a result of the strike, which was conducted using an MQ-9 aircraft," CENTCOM spokesperson Maj. John Rigsbee said in a Friday release, referring to the MQ-9 Reaper combat drone.
Earlier on Friday, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki asserted the US' "right to respond" to an attack against the US garrison at at-Tanf in southeastern Syria on Wednesday. However, CENTCOM said that attack, which involved rockets and kamikaze drones, was believed to have been carried out by "Iran-backed militias," an American term for Shiite militant groups that oppose the US presence in Iraq and Syria. That makes it unlikely the strike was the response to which Psaki referred.
However, the US has carried out several other strikes against al-Qaeda-aligned groups in Syria in recent weeks, following statements by Biden in August that outlined the next phase of the US war on terror, a conflict that has increasingly taken a back seat as the US's grand strategy shifts to a great power competition with Russia and China.
“Today a terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan: al-Shabaab in Somalia, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQQP), al-Nusra* in Syria, ISIS [Daesh] attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia,” Biden said in a televised speech two days after the US-backed Afghan government collapsed before a Taliban* blitzkrieg.
“These threats warrant our attention and our resources. We conduct effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have permanent military presence. If necessary, we’ll do the same in Afghanistan,” he added. “We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed.”
*Terrorist groups banned in Russia and many other countries
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