The US-led anti-jihadist coalition, whose forces are deployed in Syria and neighboring Iraq, announced in a statement the capture of an IS “artificer”, presented as one of the main leaders of the group. jihadist in Syria, a country fragmented by war.
In response to a question from AFP, a coalition official said it was Hani Ahmed Al-Kurdi, a former IS leader in Raqa, a former stronghold of the jihadist group in the north. Syrian.
The operation took place in the village of Al Humayrah in the province of Aleppo. Located four km from the border with Turkey, the village and surrounding localities are under the control of Turkish soldiers and their Syrian counterparts.
“The man captured by the Americans is a leading IS leader,” Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), a Syrian NGO, told AFP. who has a network of sources in Syria.
The operation “was quick and easy. Two of the helicopters that took part in the raid landed near the village of Al Humayrah, made up of around 30 houses. An exchange of fire followed” before the man was arrested , he added, without mentioning any victims.
According to the statement from the anti-jihadist coalition, the operation was “meticulously prepared in order to minimize the risk of collateral damage, in particular any potential harm to civilians”.
– A few minutes –
During the night, several helicopters were seen by the AFP correspondent heading towards Al Humayrah. The operation lasted a few minutes but the helicopters then flew over the region for several hours.
“Around midnight and a half, helicopters carried out an operation against a house located on the edge of the village where a displaced person and several people lived, Mohammed Youssef, a resident of Al Humayrah, told AFP.
After the raid, several helicopters continued to fly over the area. After leaving, “we went to the dwelling and found women with their hands tied with rope and children outside. The women told us that the (US) forces took a young man called Fawaz,” Mr. Youssef added.
Other residents said that six women, three young men and an old man lived in this house, stating that they did not know their possible relationship. They weren’t used to mingling with the villagers, they added. The old man stayed with the women.
According to witnesses, following the capture of the man named Fawaz, the two other young men were arrested by a group of Syrian rebels allied with Turkish soldiers.
Turkish soldiers then cordoned off the area.
– Sleeper cells –
The last operation of American special forces in Syria dates back to February 3. IS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hachimi al-Qurachi was killed there.
His predecessor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was also killed in a US raid in Syria in 2019.
After a meteoric rise in power in 2014 in Iraq and Syria and the conquest of vast territories, the IS saw its self-proclaimed “caliphate” collapse under the impact of successive offensives. He was defeated in 2017 in Iraq and in 2019 in Syria.
But the Sunni extremist group responsible for multiple abuses continues to carry out attacks through sleeper cells in both countries.
At the end of May, a Turkish official announced the arrest of an IS official arrested in Istanbul, without specifying his identity. Press information had then circulated on the capture of Abu Hassan al-Hachimi al-Qurachi in Istanbul but the information had not been confirmed by the Turkish authorities or other countries.
IS had promised to avenge Baghdadi’s death, calling in particular on its supporters to resume their attacks in Europe.
The complex war in Syria, involving different protagonists, has claimed around 500,000 lives since 2011.