ISIS figure Maher Al-Agal killed in Syria drone strike, U.S. says

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A high chief of the Islamic State terrorist group was killed in a U.S. drone strike Tuesday in northwest Syria, the White Home and U.S. army introduced, an operation officers mentioned would undercut the group’s means to plan and perform assaults globally.

Maher al-Agal, who labored “aggressively” on constructing the group’s networks exterior of Iraq and Syria, in line with the U.S. army, was one among two targets of the strike exterior Jindires, about 35 miles northwest of Aleppo. Agal was thought-about to be one of many high 5 Islamic State leaders in Iraq and Syria, U.S. officers mentioned.

A second particular person intently related to him, whom the army didn’t determine, was “severely injured” within the strike, in line with U.S. Central Command. A humanitarian group with personnel on the bottom mentioned the particular person ultimately died of his wounds. U.S. army officers didn’t instantly affirm that report.

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President Biden praised the event, saying it “represents the end result of decided and meticulous intelligence work and stands as testomony to the bravery and talent of our armed forces.”

“It additionally demonstrates that the USA doesn’t require 1000’s of troops in fight missions to determine and remove threats to our nation,” Biden mentioned in an announcement. The U.S. army footprint within the Center East has been considerably diminished lately as Washington contends with threats posed by China within the Indo-Pacific area, in addition to Russia’s pronounced aggression in Europe.

U.S. officers, citing an preliminary evaluation, mentioned no civilians had been harmed within the assault.

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Tuesday’s operation occurred in a village known as Khaltan, in line with the White Helmets, a workforce of first responders that works in northwest Syria. In a message posted on Twitter early Tuesday afternoon, the group affirmed that one particular person was killed and one other was wounded after a drone struck, concentrating on a motorbike. In a subsequent put up, the group mentioned that the second particular person had later died.

The White Helmets posted an image, displaying shrapnel on a street in a rural space, surrounded by what gave the impression to be olive groves. The realm, close to the Turkish border, is managed by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels.

Different Syrian social media accounts posted photos of a severely wounded man presupposed to be the second passenger, in addition to the mangled stays of the bike.

The strike comes a day forward of President Biden’s deliberate go to to the Center East, the place he’ll go to with Israeli, Palestinian, Saudi and different Arab leaders. Biden is predicted to give attention to selling regional safety cooperation in response to Iran, which has carried out a string of latest provocations as hopes for a revived nuclear deal dim.

Domestically, Biden’s journey will probably be watched for any developments it could yield within the realm of oil and gasoline markets. Biden is predicted to attend a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose members embody a few of the most influential oil producers within the area. However the president additionally faces strain to not compromise the U.S. message on human rights in trade for ensures that would assist alleviate excessive gasoline costs at residence exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, significantly with regards to making offers with Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic State was not anticipated to be amongst the highest agenda objects for Biden’s journey. However Tuesday’s strike is a reminder of the destabilizing position it continues to play within the Center East.

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Tuesday’s strike is the most recent in a variety of U.S. army efforts to select off or seize high operators inside the terrorist group. The drone strike on Agal follows the high-profile raid earlier this yr that led to the demise of Islamic State chief Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi.

His predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed throughout an analogous raid in October 2019.

In each operations, U.S. army officers got here below scrutiny after civilians, together with kids, had been killed. The Pentagon has confronted broad criticism lately for incurring civilian casualties in assaults on the Islamic State — together with prices that it lined up the demise of ladies and kids in a 2019 strike on the group’s fighters in Baghouz, Syria.

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Whereas the U.S. army has acknowledged it might do higher, it has rejected accusations that it actively tried to cover civilian deaths, declining to mete out severe punishments of U.S. personnel or maintain commanders accountable over the incidents.

Nonetheless, it seems such accusations have made some impression.

CENTCOM was fast to level out Tuesday that, in line with preliminary assessments, no civilians had been injured or killed throughout the strike on Agal. They took an analogous tone final month when asserting that no civilians had been harmed throughout a raid to seize Islamic State bombmaker Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi, often known as the “Wali of Raqqa.”

Fahim reported from Istanbul.

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