Syria: Al Qaeda leaders killed in US drone strike

Status: 23.10.2021 5:17 p.m.

The leading al-Qaeda member Abdul Hamid al-Matar was killed in an air strike in Syria, according to US reports. He is said to have been responsible for planning supra-regional attacks by the terrorist organization.

The US military claims to have killed a leading member of the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda in an air strike in northwest Syria. There is no evidence of civilian casualties, said the US military command center responsible for the region, Centcom. An MQ-9 drone was used for the air strike. The leading al-Qaeda member Abdul Hamid al-Matar was killed, it said.

Al Qaeda continues to be a threat to the US and its allies. The group used Syria as a safe haven to organize and plan attacks, the military said. The killing of al-Matar will affect al-Qaeda’s ability to “plan and carry out further attacks worldwide,” said an army spokesman.

Photo is said to show the body of al-Matar

The attack took place in Suluk in the northern border region of Syria, which is controlled by Turkey and militias allied with it. Turkey had captured parts of the region with military operations launched between 2016 and 2018. These were directed against the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS), but also the Kurdish militia YPG. Kurdish activists at the Rojava Information Center published a photo allegedly showing al-Matar’s body.

In areas controlled by NATO partner Turkey, the US military “exempts from punishment” in attacks against members of IS and Al Qaeda, the center wrote on Twitter. It identified more than 80 former members of both groups there.

According to the Pentagon, the USA had already killed an al-Qaeda commander in a US air strike in the Idlib region in northwest Syria at the end of September. According to the US, Salim Abu-Ahmad was responsible for the “planning, financing and approval of supraregional al-Qaeda attacks”.

Around 900 US soldiers are still in Syria

The drone attack on al-Matar took place two days after an attack on the Al-Tanf air base in southern Syria used by the anti-IS coalition. The spokesman did not say whether the killing of al-Matar was in retaliation for the attack on Al-Tanf.

Around 900 US soldiers are currently still in Syria. In the northeast of the country they support the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). In the south they are stationed at the Al-Tanf military base, which was set up in 2016 to fight the Islamic State jihadist militia. It is located in the immediate vicinity of the border with Jordan and Iraq on the strategically important road from Baghdad to Damascus.

Around 500,000 people have been killed since the civil war in Syria began in 2011. More than 6.6 million fled abroad.

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