U.S. drone strike in Syria kills ISIS leader who was plotting attacks in Europe, U.S. military says

Beirut — A drone strike carried out by the American-led coalition in northwestern Syria has killed a senior ISIS member who was in charge of planning attacks in Europe, the United States military said Tuesday.

The man killed Monday in the strike was identified by a U.S. military statement as Khalid Aydd Ahmad al-Jabouri. The military statement added that his death “will temporarily disrupt the organization’s ability to plot external attacks.”

Monday’s strike was the latest by the U.S. military to kill a top official with the extremist group that once controlled large parts of Iraq and Syria, where it declared a “caliphate.” From the areas they once controlled, the extremists planned deadly attacks in Europe that killed scores of people. In recent years, such attacks have decreased because ISIS lost the last sliver of land it controlled in March 2019.

The extremist sleeper cells are still launching deadly attacks in Syria and Iraq.

Opposition activists in northwest Syria said the man killed showed up in the area about 10 days ago claiming to be a displaced person from the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, bordering Iraq. Al-Jabouri is one of Iraq’s biggest tribes that also has a presence in eastern and northern Syria, and the man might have said he’s from Deir el-Zour to hide his Iraqi identity, since residents of eastern Syria speak an Arabic dialect similar to the one spoken in Iraq.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said on Monday that one person was killed in a drone strike near the rebel-held village of Kefteen. The Observatory’s chief, Rami Abdurrahman, identified the dead man as an Iraqi citizen who was struck with a missile as he spoke on his cell phone outside the home he rented.

The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, said it evacuated the man from the scene of the attack and he later succumbed to his wounds.

The strike was the latest in a series of attacks over the past years targeting al Qaeda-linked militants and senior ISIS members in northwestern Syria.

Most of those killed by U.S. strikes in the rebel-held Idlib province over the past years were members of al Qaeda offshoot Horas al-Din, which is Arabic for “Guardians of Religion.” The group includes hardcore al Qaeda members who broke away from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the strongest insurgent group in Idlib province.

In February, a drone strike killed two men local activists initially identified as Horas al-Din members. The Observatory later said one of the two killed was a senior member of ISIS.

ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was hunted down by the Americans in a raid in Idlib in October 2019. His successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, was also killed in a U.S. raid in February 2022 in northwest Syria.

In October, Syrian rebels killed the group’s leader, Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, and he has since been repalced by Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurayshi.

None of the al-Qurayshis are believed to be related. Al-Qurayshi isn’t their real name but comes from Quraish, the name of the tribe to which Islam’s Prophet Muhammad belonged. ISIS claims its leaders hail from this tribe and “al-Qurayshi” serves as part of an ISIS leader’s nom de guerre.

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