The commander of the Islamic State in Syria, one of the terrorist group’s top five leaders, was killed in a US air attack on Tuesday, according to the US military.
The US Central Command announced in a statement that Maher al-Agal was killed in a drone attack in northwest Syria, and that a close colleague of his was critically wounded.
“Extensive planning went into this operation to ensure its successful execution. An initial review indicates there were no civilian casualties,” the statement added.
It was said that al-Agal was in charge of creating ISIS networks outside of Iraq and Syria.
Reuters first reported on the murder, citing US authorities.
It would be a further setback for the Islamist insurgent group’s efforts to reorganize as a guerrilla force after losing vast swaths of territory.
Although President Joe Biden’s administration has yet to specify its long-term strategy for the eight-year-old operation, the US maintains around 900 personnel in Syria, largely in the east of the nation split by a decade of civil conflict.
An unidentified drone struck a motorbike in the hamlet of Khaltan in the northern countryside of the Aleppo region, killing two persons, according to Syrian Civil Defence, a humanitarian group working in opposition-held regions.
The US military made no mention of a motorbike in their statement, but it did say a top ISIS leader close to Maher was critically wounded during the operation.
The senior commander of the Islamic State blew himself up in February during a US military assault in Syria.
Between 2014 and 2017, the Islamic State reigned over millions of people and claimed or inspired assaults in dozens of cities across the globe.
Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, established a caliphate over a fourth of Iraq and Syria in 2014, until being killed by US special forces in an operation in northern Syria in 2019 as the organization disintegrated.
After the group’s combat loss, the US-led coalition battling it stated in mid-2019 that it maintained 14,000 to 18,000 members, including 3,000 foreigners, but accurate figures are as elusive as ISIS itself.
“ISIS continues to represent a threat to the U.S. and partners in the region,” a spokesperson for the United States Central Command said in a statement regarding the drone strike.
According to analysts, many local combatants may have returned to regular life, ready to reappear when an opportunity presents itself.